May 1993: Blur Release MODERN LIFE IS RUBBISH

Tuesday, May 10, 2022
Photo by Kevin Cummins

By 1992, Damon Albarn and Blur had enough. Despite the band's 1991 debut, Leisure, being a top 7 hit in the UK, the success was short-lived. The fickle British press quickly turned on the group, accusing them of being trend-followers jumping on the "Madchester" sound of the time, personified by the likes of Happy Mondays and Stone Roses. Compounded by a disastrous tour of grunge-infatuated America, Blur tried to dull the pain with alcohol, resulting in less-than-stellar shows and even band members coming to blows with each other.

Things weren't much better when Blur returned to England, only to find that they'd not only been dismissed by the UK press, but essentially replaced by the band of the moment, Suede. It was enough to drive any artist mad. An enraged Albarn used to setbacks as inspiration, determined to fly in the face of all things American and turn the British music scene upside down.

"When I first went to America with Blur, it was a very alien place. It had a massive effect on us," Albarn recalled during an interview with NME years after the fact. "In a way, that's kind of why we came back and made Modern Life is Rubbish. It was kind of a prophetic, in a sense, of what England would become in the near future at that time. You could just see all of this stuff that was... imminently going to transform England into something else. It wasn't really what Britpop turned into, which was a celebration of all things British. It was more of an imagining of the near future and the transformation of our culture, the homogenization of our culture."

While both the band's British and American labels were less than impressed with the results, Blur launched the second album campaign with lead single, "For Tomorrow," a track that had been commissioned by their UK label after they claimed not to hear a single on the finished record. The song made a modest chart run, peaking at #28 on the UK Singles chart. Interestingly enough, the LP's second single, "Chemical World," also peaked at #28 on the same chart.

Bypassing the then-current sound of British rock, Blur looked to England's past for inspiration, incorporating influences from classic UK acts such as the Kinks and Small Faces. Released on May 10, 1993, Blur's Modern Life is Rubbish made an immediate impact on charts, crashing the top 20 to peak at #15. But for the band, the album a considerable achievement that set the stage for a legendary career: "Modern Life Is Rubbish was a successful record because it achieved what we set out to achieve," shrugged bassist Alex James to Mojo magazine in 2000. "I thought everything was shit except us."

The stature and legacy of Modern Life is Rubbish has grown considerably over the years, with many Blur fans citing the originally maligned LP as their favorite among the group's studio discography. It forever stands as one of the true cornerstones of the Brit-pop scene, an instant classic that continues to reveal its prophetic nature all these years after it arrived.

"Modern life is the rubbish of the past. We all live on the rubbish: it dictates our thoughts," Albarn told NME back in 1993. "And because it's all built up over such a long time, there's no necessity for originality anymore. There are so many old things to splice together in infinite permutations that there is absolutely no need to create anything new."