Blur – Leisure

Leisure

Hey, wait a second! This is just a note-for-note, song-by-song cover album of The Magnetic Fields’ ’69 Love Songs’! In fact, it sounds EXACTLY the same! It’s an awesome, awesome Stephen Merritt impersonation, don’t get me wrong… but how did this band even escape charges of severe plagiarism?

Oh, I’m sorry. I must have mistaken the album I’m reviewing for a GOOD album. See, Blur, before becoming a lovably wry and intelligent British pop band, mayhaps the greatest “pop band” of (the oldest end of) my generation, they started as a fad-jumping shitty-ass “dance” band from “Australia” (actually England) that capitalized on the awful “Madchester” scene that actually had a style referred to as “baggy,” not realizing that in only a couple short decades drunken asshats in baggy clothes would overtake Camden by eleven every weekday night. It may have been like that back in 1990 or whatever too.

I mean come ON. This is almost entirely shitty Britty “dance” music for white kids that I don’t want to imagine dancing. It must have been for sober people or something, because it’s way too slow for clubbers on ecstasy, and high people and drunk people alike would be like “bro, put on something that’s not trying so hard” and “dude, put on something that rocks”, respectively. The lyrics are entirely meh, usually consisting of one or two lines per song. Generally the best they can go for is to be chipper and happy and catchy, as in the main single, “There’s No Other Way,” which IS a great song, composed of a whole three lines of meaningless lyrics and two [‘TWO!?’ (/Negativland reference)] super ear-wormy guitar riffs that’ll become part of your morning routine. But as great as “There’s No Other Way” is, it sounds much worse on an entire album full of songs that try to do the same thing, only worse. Bah! It’s like, Westminster Abbey, charge ya a tenner and ya don’t pay but ya spent twenty quid at the chip shop on curry fries and beers with friends just yesterday, innit?

Here’s the format: start the song with a catchy, John-Cleese-y riff (really, they sound very British). Repeat over and over. Add “dance” beat of an uninteresting mid-tempo syncopated drum pattern that is repeated over and over. Add vocals consisting of one or two lines about a worn out topic, often repeated over and over. At some time segue to the chorus, wherein the guitars get more distorted. Revert to normal for verse once again.  The baseline presumably does something during this, but it’s unnoticeable. And scene. Okay, it IS catchy, and the song’s aren’t “about” dancing and having a good time, which ameliorates the pain a bit, but aside from specific songs that all the positivity I can relate.

Singles include the interminable, plodding “She’s So High,” pretty great (as noted) “There’s No Other Way,” and the upbeat-but-rather-miserable “Bang,” which is a format that I usually like (happy music, sad themes), but the lyrics here don’t fit at all; they certainly don’t go “bang” at any point, and almost the unmemorable “High Cool.” I mean, by that point there were just spewing out any hopefully-catchy riff for youngsters to uh…dance? to.

Lowlights include much of the rest of the album, like the interminable, plodding “She’s So High,” the annoying way-too-loudness of the similarly plodding “Slow Down,” the wheezing-guitar harmonica that’s the whole point of “Repetition,” the songs that rip off TNOW, how most of the songs only have one thing happen musically, all the painful drawn out notes during choruses, and reading that the producers mostly used drum loops because they didn’t trust the drummer not to miss beats. Say it ain’t so, one drama free band member Dave Rowntree!

Having said all that, and I certainly did say all that using my handwords, the big exception to everything in the world of this album is “Sing,” a six-minute repetitive dirge consisting of a VU-ish pounding cyclical piano riff, thump-thump-thump pounding repetitive drums, swirling, angsty guitar noise, and (as usual) very basic lyrics, this time about “I can’t feel ’cause I’m numb” or “so what’s it worth” and “aaaaaaaaAAHHHHH sing to meeeeee!” that all come together very cogently. The trudging music sounds like it conveys the song’s meaning and you feel like the narrator (Amon Dalbarn) is in your head and you in his, and gosh darn it that song’s catchy, too albeit in a depressing and tired and oh so lonely manner. It’s fantabulous, and it’s a darn tootin’ shame there’s nothing like it elsewhere on the record.

Also I’d like to “rep” “Birthday,” a slow, sad song that doesn’t try to be danceable (gashp!) and gives actual lyrics to hating one’s birthday without venturing much into the ol’ fear of growing old. I like it! It’s a little Bowie and a little “Sing” with aplomb. “Go to park day / Watch the sky day / What a pathetic day” et cetera. I’ll even forgive that they end every line with “day” and have the expected distorted guitar drop in for tea halfway through.

And I have a problem with that Tal Bachmann song “She’s So High” too! You know the one. It was also covered by an American Idol dude or dudette. The chorus goes “she’s so hiiiiieiiieiiiigh, like Cleopatra, Joan of Arc or Aphrodite,” all dramatically. Cleopatra and Aphrodite sure, but Joan of Arc? A woman who successfully impersonated a man long enough to lead a French army corps? Not saying that’s not admirable, but it really doesn’t fit in with Cleopatra and Aphrodite, women known mainly for their beauty. But that’s just me, thinking about stuff again. Here are some sample lyrics from the album:

“All I have to do / Just you be you / Think that’s all I have to say to you” – the entire chorus of “Slow Down.”

“Think of her / Every day / Doesn’t help me / To think of her / Every day / Doesn’t help me” – the entire second verse of “She’s So High”.

“I’m the girl who loves you / Inside and out / Backwards and forwards with my tits hanging out” – from “Inside and Out”.

“Come sit down beside me / And hear my sad story / I’m shot in the tits / And I know I must die” from “Streets of Laredo”.

“This is a bad day / This is a bad day / Tonight”  – the AGGGHGHGH chorus of “Bad Day”. And yes, I will put my periods outside of song titles in quotes, at least for this review. I go back and forth on it, but this is my feeling on the matter.

As you can tell, it’s not the most artistic slab of meat ever made. And what’s up with the word “Leisure”? It’s awkward to write, and some people pronounce it “leh-jure” instead of “lee-jure.” Sounds like it’s time for ol’ second album renaissance! Spirits of Radiohead (pro-fact) and Nirvana, Blur invokes thee!

5 / 10

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