Blur, Leisure (Special Edition)

Hua Hsu

By Hua Hsu

on 05.18.11 in Reviews

Leisure (Special Edition)

Their lightning-in-a-bottle moment

Damon Albarn, guitarist Graham Coxon, bassist Alex James and drummer Dave Rowntree first started playing together in 1989 at London's Goldsmiths College — it was the first time Coxon, James or Rowntree had lived in so cosmopolitan and possibility-rich a city. They were initially called Seymour, a reference to J.D. Salinger or the Swell Maps, depending on who you believe. All of which is to say they shared the same story as countless other bright, slightly pretentious, hopeful young things in the post-Madchester era. A deal came quickly, they were renamed Blur (at their label head's behest) and they found themselves on the pop assembly line before they had perfected a full repertoire of songs. Much of Leisure was written and recorded on the spot, which explains the album's immature, generic sound and occasionally insipid lyrics. The stringy guitars and baggy beat of "There's No Other Way" was their lightning-in-a-bottle moment, and "She's So High" was an able approximation of dreamy shoegaze. But for every pensive moment like the slow-aching "Sing," one suffered through three unimaginative, "Bang"-style by-numbers dance tunes. Leisure's modest success meant they were pantomiming along to "There's No…" and "She's So High" for months to come, and an American tour was successful only in accelerating their burgeoning alcoholism. When they returned, Leisure couldn't sound more antiquated to a British public infatuated with loud, American guitars.