Album: Leisure, 1991
Justification: People talk about bandwagon jumping like it’s a bad thing. There’s nothing intrinsically wrong with making music for cynical reasons – it’s just that, generally speaking, doing so destroys that spark that’s in most songs, however inept the songwriter. But every so often a talented enough artist will think to themselves “I could totally write that” and actually do so.
Damon Albarn had already tried a few different genres on for size (including, hilariously, a synth pop duo called Two’s A Crowd whose promo photos are well worth hitting Google Images for) before forming Seymour with the his old pal Graham Coxon, Coxon’s college pal Alex James and Dave Rowntree, who’d drummed in Albarn’s hopeless band Circus. With a mix of the art school edge from Coxon and James and the be-a-pop-star-at-any-cost determination of Albarn, they drew the attention of indie label Food, who signed them on the proviso that they changed their awful name. In a show of just how punk rock they were when The Man tried to tell them what to do, they acquiesced immediately and Blur was born.
The charts at the time were filled by the post-Madchester movement christened “baggy”, with bands like the Farm and the Mock Turtles and the Soup Dragons, all of whom are remembered by few and loved by none. The main thing they had in common, aside from terrible names and hateful, hateful songs is that they were keen adherents of the hypnotic drum groove that Reni played on the Stone Roses’ ‘Fools Gold’ (which he in turn had stolen from Can’s song ‘I’m So Green’).
“Ah,” thought Damon Albarn. “I’ll be having that.”
There’s nothing about ‘There’s No Other Way’ that’s significantly different to a bunch of other contemporaneous singles by gormless chumps with floppy fringes, except that it’s astonishingly great. Ignore Albarn’s meaningless lyrics and there’s Coxon’s strident riffs, James’ sinuous bassline and Rowntree locking down the metronomic groove, all lovingly produced by Stephen Street, just coming out of five years of working with the Smiths and Morrissey. It was one of the only songs on Leisure to be worth hearing again and gave the band their early success, which in turn lead to their early failure which, thankfully, gave Albarn the creative kick in the pants he needed to craft the masterful Modern Life Is Rubbish. But ‘There’s No Other Way’ sounds more like a period one-hit wonder than a single from a band that had a massively successful career. In fact, the track is conspicuously missing from the otherwise comprehensive Midlife 2CD compilation from 2009, suggesting that they kinda feel the same way.
When I saw them play this at Thebarton Theatre, it was far too fast.
Also, this isn’t the version of the video that I wanted to use. Fuck you and your anti-embedding agenda, EMI Music.