And so the story begins…
As 21st birthdays go, this isn’t a bad reflection of one of the seminal and iconic bands of the 1990’s. These days Blur can do no wrong, they are ingrained and established in the British psyche, they have grown up with the generation they inspired and where once they typified a whole sub genre of music, these days they can be considered cool enough to be, if not the elder statesmen of the British music industry then the bizarre uncle who once got down with the teenagers and who now can still be looked upon with much fondness.
The debut album; Leisure, is where it all started. Having had their name changed from Seymour at the behest of management to Blur was a good step, the debut album itself though is rough with elements that were more suited to the alleged spirit of ‘Madchester’.
The problem with Leisure is that rather leading from the front, a chance to define a new revolution in music capability and grab the souls of the next generation in much the same way the likes of Nirvana were doing in America, Blur allowed, so it seems to follow a trend which in retrospective wasn’t good enough to last, burning itself out in pretty much the same way that disco did in its brief time limelight.
Listening to the music now after 21 years, it has the feel of watching a small child take it first clumsy steps. The first couple of paces might thrill you to see your baby mastering the art of walking but you know at the back of your mind, sooner or later it’s going to fall on its backside, scream and need a cuddle. It’s very much the same way with new music; there are so few really gifted bands that get it right first time and those that do shouldn’t be trusted in the same way as those that plug away, learning and grafting, preparing to artistically die in the pursuit of something beautiful.
Whilst Leisure can be seen taken as a laboured listen, an album that didn’t inspire a world to take notice and leaving the listener somewhat drained by the almost repetitive nature of the music, it has its moments that showed the creative spark was there. Aside from the high point of There’s No Other Way, there is the little played gem of Birthday attached to it. It’s this that shows that Damon Albarn, Graham Coxen, Alex James and Dave Rowntree could go places with time and a lot of backing.
Leisure is by no means an album to play once a week, if you own any other CD. by the band, or indeed by almost anyone else, play them with more regularity than Leisure. Just once every so often though dip into the album, take it for what it is meant to be, a band that was finding its feet and who had the guts to go and do it. It’s not life affirming but it is part of life itself. The guts to get up and show what can be.
Ian D. Hall