Blur’s debut album Leisure was released at a strange time. In the very early ’90s, British indie music was stuck between two worlds: shoegaze and the remnants of the baggy Madchester scene of the ’80s. Leisure is the direct result of this. Songs like “There’s No Other Way” foreshadow the type of music that Blur would continue to make into the ’90s on albums like Parklife while other tracks like “She’s So High” and “Come Together” are heavily influenced by shoegaze music.
Blur became Britpop kings in the mid ’90s. But when they first started out, they were a gang of lads from art school with bad haircuts (seriously, look at the picture on the right). Like Suede, Pulp, Lush and other bands that would go on to become prominent figures in Britpop, Blur was trying to find its way in a confusing musical landscape. Despite this, Leisure is a solid record.
The melodies on Leisure are perfect. “Sing” in particular has held up quite well over the years and still finds a place in Blur’s live set. But the signature Blur sound is largely missing from this record. In recent years, Damon Albarn has written off Leisure entirely calling it “awful.” I think that’s going way too far as it is still an enjoyable piece of music but on this album it’s clear that the members of Blur have yet to find their voices.
Leisure is a chill out record. Songs like “Birthday” and “Slow Down” are very sonically interesting and could be right at home on an early Catherine Wheel album. I’ve heard “There’s No Other Way” at indie clubs in recent years and it stands out as Leisure‘s most pop-friendly track.
I believe that Leisure deserves a place in every Blur fan’s collection. But if you’re looking for the types of indie guitar pop tunes that took Blur to the top of the charts, you should stick to Modern Life Is Rubbish and Parklife.