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Blur – Leisure Review

Kick back and relax in leisure with Leisure, Blur’s debut album from all those decades ago. Influenced by the baggy period which dominated the time and throwing light on what the band would soon be, but also showing the convincing detractions made, the moves to already leave Madchester behind after dipping their toes in the water. Not a bad place for any band to start, and leaving an impression with its Charles Hewitt cover, colour graded into brighter charms and a hopeful, colourful future, is where Leisure finds itself. Graham Coxon leads the charge, a powerful and neo-psychedelic-like touch to his guitar work on She’s So High, one of the few tracks here worth plucking from the clumsier, broader strokes of Leisure and all it is remembered for.  

Typically loved-up charms linger on through opener She’s So High, which for all its Coxon presence soon reveals itself as a spot for Alex James to shine on bass. A brooding, darker run-up to the solo provided by Coxon is a nice instrumental section soon interrupted by Damon Albarn. Unity is key to Leisure and within are the sketches of what Blur would soon become. Personable and isolated moves, this desire to crawl through the trenches of intimacy not with someone specific, just someone. Even with those obvious Madchester vibrations, Blur begins to find its own voice. Bang brings about a steady rhythm section which rises and falls as Albarn cements fears of seeing the working week come and go. Again, relatable pop references but stuffy and cumbersome with personal regret and fear, it is the best of the scene on a debut worth remembering. Something clearly clicks for Blur, whose legacy has now been cemented by the style found on Slow Down. 

A rare little gem of a track which has seemingly been forgotten about, but it serves as an essential reminder for those burning themselves out with appointments and hourly work expectations. Slow down. That is, as Albarn admits, all he wants to say on this track. Out-of-step vocals with the crashing Coxon guitar work and the heavier reliance on Dave Rowntree’s production give the back-and-forth between needing rest and the ever-present flow of work real credence. Acceptance is the core of Leisure, it is the hidden-in-plain-sight message for the band’s debut. Take the time to take a break, otherwise, you’ll end up like the protagonist found in the out-of-place yet best piece, Sing.  

But Leisure trades in its heartfelt cries for complacency with, There’s No Other Way, a bombastic, tightly-drawn on single which personifies each member of Blur at their best. From the sickeningly strong guitar riffs and wah-like discoveries made on Bad Day to the energetic frontman artistry Albarn brings, all the good stuff pours out of There’s No Other Way. Take it all back to the cover. Glamour in the Swim. Certainly enough allure in Fool and Birthday, deeper cuts which bring out some tender moments. Hear the fear in the latter, of getting old. Look at them now. There is, to its credit, plenty of glamour throughout this. Little reflections of what the future holds for Sing, the powerful waves of percussion which guide Blur through to a success reflected on before they had it. Shaking their foundations before they had figured out who they were, Blur take Leisure as a scattershot of sentiment and tucks into a voracious spread of styles, boyish charm meeting wizened reflection.  

Ewan Gleadow
Ewan Gleadow
Editor in Chief at Cult Following | News and culture journalist at Clapper, Daily Star, NewcastleWorld, Daily Mirror | Podcast host of (Don't) Listen to This | Disaster magnet

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