Blur was formed in the late 1980's by four lads from London: Damon Albarn (vocals and principle songwriter), Graham Coxon (guitars), Alex James (bass), and Dave Rowntree (drums). Their first album, Leisure, was released in 1991 and was a product of the Madchester music scene, which was huge in Britain in the late 80's and early 90's, and consisted of a mix of electronica and psychedelic rock, with a dash of jangly guitars and a driving beat that was prime for dancing. The Stone Roses are the preeminent Madchester band and much of Leisure sounds like a Stone Roses rip off, albeit a fairly decent one.
By the time Leisure was released, however, Madchester was on the way out, which is perhaps why the album is so uneven. Half the tracks attempt capitalize on the Madchester movement, while the other half have a decidedly more rock oriented sound, with dirty, distorted guitar riffs. These grungy tracks, while not the singles, are the true standouts. Leisure was released on August 21, 1996, nearly a month before Nirvana's Nevermind, which was released to widespread critical acclaim on September 23, 1991 and was responsible for ushering in a new era of music in the USA - Grunge. Leisure is nowhere near as brilliant and groudbreaking as Nevermind, but Blur was definitely channeling a similar muse on a few songs, and it's interesting that Leisure was ignored totally by the US.
The album itself is not great, and despite some colossal duds ("Bang!", "I Know", "Slow Down", and "Birthday"), Leisure ultimately showcases a promising young band that is still trying to find its sound. Albarn's vocals are too often faded into the background, but he pens some decent hooks. Coxon's guitar playing shines the most here. In fact, his riffs are the most rewarding part of Leisure. They are the driving force behind standouts like "There's No Other Way", "Bad Day", "Fool", "High Cool", and "Wear Me Down".
My main issue with the Leisure is boredom. More often then not, I wanted to skip ahead to the next song. It's not a cohesive album and, as a result, it couldn't hold my attention. Perhaps this is why Albarn has stated that Leisure is an awful album. While I wouldn't call it awful, let's just say it's best suited for existing in the background, filling the empty space as you concentrate on something else.
Overall Grade = 4.5 out of 10
- What's with the album cover? It's in the running for worst cover art ever.
Next Installment = Modern Life is Rubbish