I guess they decided they didn’t want to be The Stone Roses anymore! Yes, from the quaint English town of absolutelynowheresville (unless you count the recent B-sides) comes this album of cynicism, hopelessness, quiet desperation, commercialization…all that good stuff. And it sold! In England, anyway, because albums about quiet desperation didn’t stand a Jew’s chance in a Goodwill until Radiohead came along. Not that it’s a quiet album, mind you. It’s more pop than rock – and not in the way we commonly understand pop today – I mean that it’s musically pretty light, though it’s certainly pretty heavy in the Milan Kundera sense.
The philosophical attack is wonderful in its relentlessness. Take the first three songs (please!): “For Tomorrow” concerns itself with “holding on for tomorrow,” then “Advert” starts with the perfectly miserable line “It’s six o’clock on the dot / And I’m halfway home,” and doesn’t get much cheerier; someone desperately wants escape and knows it isn’t coming. Then “Colin Zeal” switches completely by being one of Blur’s portrait songs, only this time it’s an insufferable prick who doesn’t get his comeuppance at all! “Colin Zeal knows the value of mass appeal”, and the chorus goes “He looks at his watch / He’s on time yet again / He’s pleased with himself / So pleased with himself.” Mother fucker! I hate this guy! It’s the early nineties and intelligent bands were already complaining about the same damned things we’re complaining about today! I mean, my favourite album of the year was called “The Suburbs”! Aaaaaah! Later songs have fun titles like “Chemical World”, “Coping” and “Resigned.” I think someone gets it!
Even the whimsical parts (and there are certainly a few) sound, well, mean and cynical. Not that it’s a surprise, given the title of the album. I wish I could go back in time to when I was five and ask them where the hell this came from, aside from looking at the world around them, but man oh man, it’s quite the attack on everything.
Okay, enough gushing for a bit. Let’s make subjective judgements about musical quality now. It’s very good! Okay, that said, there are certainly some weak songs. The second “side” is generally less exciting than the first, with “Oily Water” being a huge Leisurey bore, followed by another five minute bore and the least memorable pop song, creating a fifteen minute dead period until “Coping” picks things up with its catchy riff, and then “Turn It Up” sounds like the theme song to a cheesy sitcom with a title like “Just Cheer Up! Starring Taylor Hanson!” Oh, and “For Tomorrow” was written specifically to be a single, and you can really here the “please release me!” in it, which causes it to wear on me must faster than the rest of the album.
But generally, yay, sadness! “Blue Jeans” is fucking heartbreaking. “Advert” has a cute opening and then kicks it up with the most angry guitars on the album. Every good song sounds like it kicks up the sadness higher than the last good song, and that’s a lot of good songs! And there are no shortage of hooks, Blur being Blur, it’s a little like early New Pornographers, only way more British. And, you know, obsessed with being a failure and being too tired to do anything about it and wishing life to be a dream you could wake from.
Yes, it’s a fast driving fifty minutes with your hosts The Blurs. And they end it with a minute-long instrumental called “Commercial Break.” I think it sold about ten copies in the states. Pfft to those “tossers,” am I right?
8 / 10