For full transparency this is possibly my favorite Blur release of all-time. It’s definitely in the top 3 and as you will see as I progress through this exercise that I think they have 6 fantastic albums. So high praise off the bat. I was probably and still am in the minority regarding this album amoung the inhabitants of the US. Modern Life Is Rubbish only sold 19,000 copies!!! We didn’t have music streaming services back in the dark pre-internet days of 1993 so this is a terrible number.

The reaction from almost everyone in the US if you asked them if they liked the new Blur album in 1994.

So I mentioned on the first segment into this series about Blur and their albums that the US release of Leisure was different than the UK version and this was detrimental overall to the album. The same thing happens here but it’s a massively positive change. We will go through the tracks below but the additions are stellar here and I’ll briefly discuss.

The first 14 tracks almost identical to the UK release. The difference being they add the song “Intermission” and also add “Popscene”. “Popscene” was a non-album single release by the band that also tanked in the UK. This song is such a fantastic banger and I’ll discuss it below more. There’s a couple hidden tracks “When The Cows Come Home” and “Peach” to end the album. There was basically a false ending on the cd. Some people thing stunts like this are pretentious, I love it.

The wikipedia link about to the album is packed with great insight regarding the recording of the album, I suggest it be checked out. So onto the tracks and my thoughts.

Track 1: “For Tomorrow”: Just a fantastic early chorus of sorts with a bunch of la la…la la la la’s in it. This song has a bunch going on but it’s all very controlled and makes total sense. The added strings make sense and aren’t out of place or pretentious at all. The band just seems in total control and they never felt comfortable on Leisure. It just sounds like a fully confident band out of the gate. I love the end of the song as well, where Albarn just sings in a sneering cockneyish accent over the chorus. Great song. This was also the first single off the album.

Track 2: “Advert”: “Food processors are great” voice-over kicks off the song, lol. This song has a bit more of a punk influence but it’s a banger. So a different type of song musically than the first but just as controlled and confident. I really love the little musical breakdown with a minute left. Just an odd touch that really works. This is a point I’ll be returning to over and over again. This band likes to experiment. They never got credit for doing so (until possibly later in their career) but it’s all here early on. Another great track and a rollicking start.

Track 3: “Colin Zeal”: This is another banger, the tempo and feel of the song turn on a dime about 45 seconds. This is basically 2 songs successfully threaded together. A quick song barely over 3 minutes long, but just tight, focused and great. The last 30 seconds are awesome, with the shouted unintelligible part being shouted over the music. It just all works for me really well.

Track 4: “Pressure On Julian”: I initially thought they were saying Pressure on Juliard. I’m not a lyrics guy at all (or a pay attention to basic stuff guy at times) so I thought this for quite awhile lol. Love the instrumental start to the song. A bit menacing but they just can turn on a dime within a song and have a bit of different feel, which they successfully do here a couple times. The last 1:30 is basically a chaotic musical outro that I love, with 1 return to the chorus. A bit messy but very contained, it’s only a 3:32 track but they cover a bunch of ground during that time.

Track 5: “Star Shaped”: Probably the poppiest song on the album so far (possibly tied with “For Tomorrow”). They do songs like this effortlessly. I think they really got pigeonholed as a cookie cutter Brit Pop band early in their career and everything thought all their songs were similar to this one. Just not the case. So this is pure Britpop I’d say, but when they do it, it’s better than all the rest of the bands of this time as well. They do add the weird Beatlesque flourish at the end of the song though. They did want to and were trying to separate themselves from the Britpop moment they were grouped into, I think, but everyone just missed out that they were really way more than a formulaic band that was genre specific.

Track 6: “Blue Jeans”: A downtempo song, more melancholy than songs prior to it. Blur excel at songs like this. I love the instrumental parts as well, cause they add a bit of counterbalance to the gloomy mood Albarn is portraying. Just a fantastic song and different than anything else on the album up to this point.

Track 7: “Chemical World”: The second single of the album. This album is stellar but there aren’t really any singles off it. The single is “Popscene” which didn’t do well and was released before this album in the UK. This is again Britpop, but they have a great musical interlude about halfway through. The singles are very Britpop and again I think that’s why everyone just pigeon-holed them as some sort of generic brit band at this point of their existence. This is great Britpop though.

Track 8: “Intermission”: Ok, so here’s where the US release starts to pay real dividends. Just a fascinating instrumental piece that turns into a punk rock song. They can do punk effortlessly and let that fact be known on some tracks later in their career, but here is the first taste for the 19,000 people in the US who purchased this album. This song is also prominently feature in the film Baby Driver during a bank heist scene! I saw this movie in the theater and was so hyped when this happened lol. Musically it starts as a just piano and that portion gets sped up repeatedly and guitar then the rhythm section comes in and it finally goes full punk. I love this song, it shows that the band really just likes to try things and when they do it typically works, also just great album placement.

Track 9: “Sunday Sunday”: The third and last single released from this album. I feel like this is a bit of a parody of what a single should have sounded like during this time period. I love the horns in this song. This first part of the song is a bit sleepy then they kick it into high gear before slowing it down to end it all. It’s hard for me express through words how good/weird/successful of a song this is. It under 3 minutes, but so much goes on it feels longer. Awesome track.

Track 10: “Oily Water”: I have a bit to say about this track and the next. When people discuss Blur as just some Britpop band I’m flummoxed because they must have just skipped over this track. To me this and the next track “Miss America” portend more for roadmap/future of the band than the rest of the album. To call this song experimental is an understatement. Albarn is singing in the sneering cockney accent full on and the band have the amps turned up to 11. Coxon just brings the horror guitar aesthetic into play and they push/pull it until the last 2 minutes when darkness subsumes the song. Pretty sure this is about an acid trip gone wrong and it sounds like it. I feel like Blur are a totally uncompromising musical act and they never got credit for being so. This song is a major moment for them and stakes a bit of flag IMO, one that was just somehow overlooked or ignored. A band like Radiohead gets tons of credit for pushing musical boundaries (rightfully so) but I have always felt Blur is more akin to a being in league with Radiohead than they ever were with Oasis.

Track 11: “Miss America”: Just really loose and a bit rambling. Again they are just going for it here I think. A song like this just shows the bands true colors way more than their successful singles do. The longest song on the album and it earns it in my estimation. Everything I said about “Oily Water” can be attributed to this song as well. Just a band who’s extremely mature and confident really early in their career. Having listened to the album up this point you’d think that “Oily Water” and this song wouldn’t make sense at all or seem out of place. They don’t at all. It’s a bit of magic that I think is attributable to this overall album and why it’s possibly my favorite of theirs.

Track 12: “Villa Rosie”: This song is fine, but there’s just so much awesomeness that I’ve already heard that it just is ok.. I do feel like it picks up a bit the last 1:15 but it’s the least successful song on the album up to this point.

Track 13: “Coping”: Another song that has a bunch of moving parts for such a short song, but it just works wonderfully. They really cut loose about 1:30 in with (Albarn probably) pulling out the weird sci-fi keyboard which I love. They really bring this song home, everyone is singing the sci-fi keyboard is zinging along and then they go into demented la la’s. Great stuff.

Track 14: “Turn It Up”: Another just over 3 minute song. They could have phoned these songs in like so many albums do, but they managed to not phone these in. This isn’t some amazing song compared to what we’ve experienced so far (probably my second least favorite song so far) but it’s just not quite filler either.

Track 15: “Popscene”: This song explodes and then the horns kick in! Just an absolute banger and the people of Britain should feel ashamed that this song wasn’t a massive fucking hit. It’s a song that’s just not formulaic enough to be a hit especially in 1992 when it was released, truly what I believe. The instrumentation on this song is epic for such a short song, Coxon just wins the day here and as mentioned the horns fit perfectly. I love this song a 5 star banger! Again, an addition to the US release since it was a released in the UK as a non album single before this album was actually released.

Track 16: “Resigned”: Great album ender here (the UK version). Just weird and again a song that shows the band’s true colors seeping through. They wanted to try things and never considered themselves to be a “Britpop” band. Much like “Oily Water” they have a killer, very long outro on this song (over 2 and a half minutes long)

Track 17: “Commercial Break”: The rest of the songs aren’t on the UK release, just the US version. This is similar to “Intermission” but shorter and just as chaotic.

Tracks 18-67 were added to the US album cd release but just blank. So silent tacks until you got to track 68 and 69.

Track 68: “When The Cows Come Home”: Great song. Blur have a bit of a funny/mischievous side that a band like Radiohead never did. It’s one of the reasons I like them better. Music should be fun and funny, great example here. This could be considered throw off nonsense but it’s actually a really good song. A bit of a Ween looseness vibe going on.

Track 69: “Peach”: A slow song to end things on the US release. Again, funny, “You’ve got a gaping hole in your head, I’d let the birds nest there instead”. Coxon has some great guitar work on this song as well. Again, just really loose and they are willing to try things and they are successful when they experiment. Great song.

Just a show stopper of an album. We will see if it holds up as my number 1 Blur album by the end of this thing but it’s just fantastic. There are only 2 songs I’m like, meh, everything else is really good to totally amazing.

5 Star Banger Songs (5 stars): “Sunday Sunday”, “Oily Water”, “Miss America”, “Popscene”

Great Songs (4 stars) The entire rest of the album minus “Villa Rosie” and “Turn It Up” which are both just meh to ok.

Allmusic review of “Modern Life Is Rubbish” 4.5/5 stars