The unpromising dawn of Blur [April 22, 1991]
Beginning life in the landfill
This week’s Number 20: “There’s No Other Way” by Blur
There’s some alternate universe out there where Blur are the punchline to a joke about awful indie also-rans from the 90s, in much the same way that people in this universe talk about Menswear.
It’s hard to explain just how unexciting Blur were in 1991. They had fans and enthusiasm, sure, and Leisure is not totally without merit. “There’s No Other Way” marks their first appearance in the top 20, after their superior debut “She’s So High” only scraped the top 40.
It’s just that their whole sound was so done at this point.
I mean, just look at some of the other tracks in this week’s chart:
“Sit Down” — James
“The Size of a Cow” - The Wonder Stuff
“Can You Dig It?” — The Mock Turtles
“Caravan” — Inspiral Carpets
All are broadcasts on a very narrow bandwidth, occupying a limited Baggy/Madchester vibe that was at best the nation’s third favourite musical movement. If you were going to pick a band there that would make it huge, you wouldn’t pick Blur.
And if you were going to choose a young band of the era who would be trailblazers, I think you’d actually vote for EMF, whose “I Believe” was in the charts just a few weeks ago. They just seemed to have more ambition than Blur, who sound exhausted on most of their debut album.
Of course, as the band tell it themselves, they were exhausted on Leisure. It’s an album they were practically forced to make by the label, with five different producers trying to give them an identity. The fact that the album has any interesting moments is an achievement. “There’s No Other Way” is quite fun, “She’s So High” is a classic, and “Sing” gave us a peek at how they’d end up sounding in the late 90s on the eponymous Blur.
But it’s a long road from Leisure to Blur. It’s a long road from “There’s No Other Way” to Modern Life is Rubbish, where they finally start to sound like themselves, rather than Madchester also-rans.
Elsewhere in the charts
The Age of Chesney is almost at a close! This is his final week at the top, so we should all take a moment to appreciate a 6/10 pop song.
Meanwhile, Cher has Swoop Swooped into the number 2 spot. We’ll be talking about her soon.
Big showing for the Adult Contemporary genre in the top ten, with new entires from Orchestral Maneuvres in the Dark (“Sailing on the Seven Seas”) and Zucchero & Paul Young (“Senze Una Donna”)
The top 20 has new entries from Vic Reeves, Electronic and De La Soul, which is all very exciting.
Live acts on tonight’s Top of the Pops: EMF, Vic Reeves, Electronic, Blur, Gloria Estefan, and a final lap for Chesney.