The Blur album Damon Albarn called “awful”

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Blur needed to overcome bumps in the road to reach their rightful destination, even though their journey started on the right track. While they successfully managed to gauge sizeable anticipation for their debut album, 1991’s Leisure, Damon Albarn holds negative feelings towards the record, which he once labelled as “awful”.

It only took around a year following their formation for Blur to capture the attention of Food Records, who signed the band in 1990 on the condition they agreed to change their name from Seymour. After re-branding to Blur, their natural progression to superstardom seemingly began to take flight. Together, they spent months plying their trade on the road supporting The Cramps, providing them the chance to road-test material before finally unleashing it on the general public.

Their first single, ‘She’s So High’, charted in the top 50, which was impressive for a group with little profile and helped build a foundation for them to build. Their next move was the release of ‘There’s No Other Way’, which peaked at eight in the UK chart and made Blur become the band on everybody’s lips.

From this point, it seemed they could do no wrong, and Leisure was anticipated to be the album that would help them climb further up the ladder. Blur were aware of this at the time, and as Albarn later admitted, they consciously tried to make the project they thought would be most commercially viable rather than seeping with artistic integrity.

During an interview on Guitar Centre Sessions in 2014, Albarn said of the process of making the album: “Well, that wasn’t a particularly happy experience. I was so keen to have a record deal; it seemed like such a big deal that I think, with hindsight, we were a little too eager to please our masters.”

Elaborating on his point, Albarn added: “I think when you started out, at that time, the music business was very different to what it is now. There was definitely a business and a way of doing things, unless you were very lucky, you generally got signed because they saw your potential to continue a trend that was ongoing. There never have been that many true visionaries in the music business.”

Blur felt they had to present a version of themselves, rather than being wholly inauthentic, if they were to succeed as a band. Rather than carving out their own sound, they instead bowed down to the perceived industry demands and handed in an album they’d later grow to regret.

In 2007, Albarn admitted: “I’ve made hundreds of mistakes. I’ve made two bad records. The first record, which is awful, and The Great Escape, which was messy.”

While Leisure isn’t the best representation of Blur, if it wasn’t for the album’s failings, they’d likely not have gone on to make Modern Life Is Rubbish, which helped define an era and proved they had their own identity rather than being just another forgettable one-hit wonder indie band.

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