Often seen as a 'transition album' between the juvenalia of Leisure and the fully fledged masterpiece that is Parklife, Modern Life is Rubbish deserves to be heard on its own as an excellent record, but is also fascinating when viewed in the context of Blur's musical development. Modern Life is Rubbish is truly the album where Blur and Damon Albarn found their poetic and musical voice. That is to say, the sort of tired, sad, resigned lo-fi ballads to which they would return on all their subsequent albums (Best Days, He Thought of Cars, Strange News from Another Star), but which they explored most deeply and compellingly on this record. The key songs, therefore, are the likes of For Tomorrow, Chemical World and Blue Jeans. All three manage to be heartbreakingly beautiful and tragic, while not being either fragile or sentimental. The prevailing mood is of resigned melancholy, summed up on Miss America (ironically one of the weakest tracks on the album) by the lines: "I don't mind. I don't mind at all / I love only you".
The slow songs dovetail nicely with familiar Blur thrash on Advert, Villa Rosie and Turn it up. Honourable mentions also go to Sunday Sunday and the instrumental Intermission. In fact the only thing which keeps Modern Life is Rubbish from a five star review is the horrible Colin Zeal.
Given its bleak title and content, Modern Life is Rubbish perhaps bears comparison to those modern doom mongers Radiohead, but ulike the perennially gloomy Bends, this album is an oddly uplifting listening experience, thanks to the wry humour and sweet sadness which ultimatly is the hallmark of Modern Life is Rubbish.