Newest Review: ... single release from the album and charted at number 28 in the UK singles chart. Next up we have the weirdest introduction to a song ev... more
Parklifes Older Brother
Modern Life Is Rubbish - Blur
Member Name: mikeb2102
Modern Life Is Rubbish - Blur
Advantages: A great slice of Brit Pop at it's best
Disadvantages: "Resigned" should have been resigned to one of those outtake type albums
In 1994 Blur released what would be one of the defining albums in the Britpop era; "Parklife". I saw resemblances in the Britpop groups and Mod bands like The Jam, The Kinks and The Small Faces, mainly because they sang about things they knew about, they sang about the country they were from and they didn't sell out and try to change their identity, especially their accents. When Parklife was released I bought it straight away and played it over and over and...well you get the picture. I eventually got the urge to hear more of Blurs music. I had listened to their debut album "Leisure" and aside from "There's No Other Way" and "She's So High", I thought it was pretty mediocre to say the least. I had heard a track called "Chemical World" from "Modern Life is Rubbish" and I just had to buy the album and this time I was in for a real treat!
Blur were formed in 1988 by childhood friends Damon Albarn(Vocals, Piano, Keyboards) and Graham Coxon(Guitar, Backing Vocals) along with Alex James(Bass) and Dave Rowntree(Drums). They released their debut album "Leisure" in 1991 on the back of the "Baggy" music genre that was in the middle of sweeping Britain.
After the mainstream success of "Leisure"(Number 7 in the UK Album Charts), the group discovered they were £60,000 in debt, so to try and recoup some of their losses they agreed to tour The States. The Grunge sound from America had already become mainstream with bands like Nirvana and Pearl Jam having released their debut albums and due to homesickness, the band decided to write songs with a very English feel about them and this is where the term Britpop was first coined. Damon took inspiration from listening to an album by The Kinks throughout the tour and you can definitely hear Ray Davies influence in some of the songs on the resulting album...Modern Life is Rubbish. This album didn't fair as well as its predecessor, reaching number 15 in the UK Album Charts, but I hold this album in high esteem and think it was a far superior album.
The album opens with "For Tomorrow" ; a song that name checks a number of places in London; The Westway, Emperors Gate and Primrose Hill, the title of the album also appears in the lyrics to this song. "For Tomorrow" has a very distinctive intro that is repeated at the start of each verse before Damons vocal kicks in. This song also became their first single release from the album and charted at number 28 in the UK singles chart.
Next up we have the weirdest introduction to a song ever; "Food processors are great", followed by a keyboard sequence and then some heavy guitars. Damon snarls through the punky "Advert" like Johnny Rotten reborn, who says punk is dead?
"Colin Zeal" starts off with James' bassline droning in, before Coxon and Rowntree join in. This is a character song about a very smug man, doesn't really have a point to it, although it is a great track I thought the band could have gone somewhere with the lyric.
"Pressure on Julian" stemmed from their boss at Food Records tempestuous relationship with Julian Cope, with whom he played keyboards with in The Tear Drop Explodes. Julian was known for his excessive drug use, and I guess there was a lot of pressure to come up with the songs for the band. The lyrics to this song kind of take the listener on an L.S.D trip, definitely not the strongest track on the album in my opinion.
Next up we have a great pop song that I think the band should have released as a single; "Star Shaped". It appears to be about feeling worthless "I've been making plans (for the future),
become an unconscious man (all for the good), I feel so unnecessary". The final part of the chorus is a backing vocal that tells the singer that we don't think you're worthless we think you're pretty cool "We don't think so; you seem star shaped".
Damon wrote the lyric for "Blue Jeans" when he was embarking on a relationship with Justine Frischmann, it was written when they shared a house in Notting Hill. In the song Damon name checks Dr Martins("Air Cushioned Soles") & Portobello Road(a street in Notting Hill, home to a big street market famous for selling second-hand clothes and antiques). The song is about a time when everything is great in a relationship and Damon sings "I want to stay this way forever".
"Chemical World" is the track that made me want to get this album, this was the second single from this album and reached number 28 in the UK Singles Chart(very underrated chart position in my opinion). The lyric is about using sugar as a thing to make things better in your life, "Have to sit down and have some sugary tea"; we have all probably at some stage in our life have someone from the older generation tell us to have some sweet tea to make things better. Another line in the song says "Now she's eating chocolate to induce sleep" when she's just been told by her landlord that "she's out in a week" because "she didn't have enough money to pay the rent". It's a very catchy tune and a fantastic pop song, one of the best songs on the album, I still love it now, despite having played it to death. "Intermission" isn't included on the album credits as a single song, it is tagged onto the end of "Chemical World" and is a little musical interlude that starts off with a piano playing a nice little tune before building up into a crescendo of noise; a nice little break before we head into the next track.
"Sunday Sunday" is like a modern day Ray Davies composition, it is a very British song, talking up the great British Sunday. The song starts off with a drum beat before going into a music hall jolly up. "Sunday Sunday here again in tidy attire"; a reference to when people used to get dressed up for dinner and visit their family "To gather the family round the table to eat enough to sleep". The song references Songs of Praise & Mothers Pride. In the second verse the song talks about going for a walk in the park and meeting an old soldier who talks about how "he fought for us in two world wars, and says the England he knew is no more"(perhaps a nod to how Sundays are not the same anymore and people go out to work etc, where before, Sunday was always considered a day to rest). The song was released as the third single from the album reaching number 26 in the UK Singles Chart. I absolutely love this track, well I am a bit partial to music hall songs and the imagery this song conjures up is fantastic, it makes me think of how Sundays really used to be.
"Oily Water" didn't do anything for me the first time I listened to it, but it's a song that kind of grows on you the more you listen to it. I don't think it's one of the strongest on the album, but it certainly isn't one of the weakest. Damon sings through this track using a megaphone to give it a nice distorted edge to it and the fade out seems to go on forever and suddenly stops just when you're about to reach for the "next track" button.
From the raucous sound that this album has produced so far, we have a nice melancholic gem of a song in "Miss America". This song just flows and allows the listener to drift into a dreamy state, it is carried along nicely by Graham Coxons slide guitar. There are also no drums on this track, on the sleeve notes it does credit Dave Rowntree as "Being in a local pub", presumably he was too drunk to play on the track.
"Villa Rosie" is a song about finishing work and going straight to the local pub; The name of the pub being the title of this song, definitely one of the albums finest tracks.
Up next we have another punky number in "Coping". The song could be about coping with the loss of something/someone and the singer can't really be bothered with it all. It's a really catchy upbeat tune, Blur at their best.
This next song; the penultimate on the album, "Turn it Up" is one of my favourites on this album. The lyrics don't make any sense to me at all, but if you listen to Duran Durans greatest songs, neither did they and they did some mighty fine pop songs.
From the upbeat pop of "Turn it Up" we have the final song on the album; a melancholic song called "Resigned". This song is a strange one to me, as it only has two verses and no chorus, it is also a track that usually gets skipped when I listen to the album, as 5.11, it's far too long for a song with only two verses and no chorus. "Commercial Break" is another musical interlude that lasts for about a minute, nothing special to report about it.
All songs written by Albarn, Coxon, James, Rowntree
1) For Tomorrow
3) Colin Zeal
4) Pressure on Julian
5) Star Shaped
6) Blue Jeans
7) Chemical World/Intermission
8) Sunday Sunday
9) Oily Water
10) Miss America
11) Villa Rosie
13) Turn it Up
14) Resigned/Commercial Break
Clocking in a just under an hour in length, this album is definitely one of Blurs finest, and I actually happen to enjoy it more than "Parklife"; It seems to have more of a raw edge to it. It is almost a flawless album and would have been had they omitted the weakest number from it; "Resigned/Commercial Break". This album has a whole mixture of tracks on it from nice mellow tunes to punk rock, to pop, to music hall, so there is something there for everyone on it.
You can purchase the original album on CD from amazon.co.uk for £3.79 or if you want that little bit extra, there is a two disc edition, which includes some rare tracks and B-sides, including the single that was released prior to this album, "Popscene" and this is also available from amazon.co.uk for £11.09. - Prices include postage and packaging.
Summary: Great precursor to Parklife and probably one of the places I would start when listening to Blur