While it may not have given Blur the chart success it deserved, their second album, Modern Life Is Rubbish, would go on to be one of the group’s best-loved records and, in many ways, prove to be one of the most influential British albums of the 90s.
However, after the moderate success of their debut album, 1991’s Leisure, Blur found themselves facing a backlash from the then all-important UK music press and, in January 1992, discovered they were in debt thanks to financial carelessness on the part of their manager. Rather than bringing Blur to their knees, those problems became the making of the group. Under new management, and in an attempt to recoup some of their losses, they embarked on a 44-date tour of the US.
Listen to Modern Life Is Rubbish here.
The tour went badly. Gripped by grunge, US audiences had little time for Blur’s baggy-inspired indie music. Meanwhile, feeling homesick for British culture, the band’s performances became increasingly drunken and belligerent – qualities that failed to endear them to US crowds.
Things weren’t much better back home. Blur’s March 1992 single, the horn-driven punk of Popscene – now rightly regarded as one of the best Blur songs of all time – had flopped, while their rivals Suede were gaining momentum with a glammed-up, melodramatic and defiantly British brand of indie music. In August that year the two bands shared a stage at a charity gig at London’s Town & Country Club. Though Suede were lowest on the bill, they blew an intoxicated and shambolic Blur off the stage. Dave Balfe, the head of Blur’s label, Food Records, delivered frontman Damon Albarn an ultimatum: if Blur failed to get their act together in a month, they’d be dropped.