The album’s title derives from stenciled graffiti painted along Bayswater Road in London, created by an anarchist group. For Albarn, the phrase reflected the «rubbish» of the past that accumulated over time, stifling creativity. Albarn told journalist John Harris in 1993 that he thought the phrase was «the most significant comment on popular culture since ‘Anarchy in the UK'». Due to Blur’s disdain for America at the time, the album’s working title was Britain Versus America. The painting of the steam locomotive Mallard on the album cover was a stock image that StylorougeBlur’s design consultantsobtained from a photo library in Halifax. According to Design Week magazine, the painting «evoked the feel of a Just William schoolboy’s pre-war Britain». Inside the packaging, there is an oil-on-canvas of the band dressed as mop-top skinheads in a tube train. The subject of the album’s cover is the steam locomotive Mallard. Number 4468 Mallard is a London and North Eastern Railway Class A4 4-6-2 Pacific steam locomotive built at Doncaster, England, (UK) in 1938. It is historically significant as the holder of the world speed record for steam locomotives. Mallard is now part of the National Collection at the United Kingdom’s National Railway Museum in York.
Modern Life Is Rubbish is the second album by the English alternative rock band Blur, released in May 1993. Although their debut album Leisure (1991) had been commercially successful, Blur faced a severe media backlash soon after its release, and fell out of public favour. After the group returned from an unsuccessful tour of the United States, poorly received live performances and the rising popularity of rival band Suede further diminished Blur's status in the UK.
Under threat of being dropped by Food Records, for their next album Blur underwent an image makeover championed by frontman Damon Albarn. The band incorporated influences from traditional British guitar-pop groups such as the Kinks and the Small Faces, and the resulting sound was melodic and lushly produced, featuring brass, woodwind and backing vocalists. Albarn's lyrics on Modern Life Is Rubbish use "poignant humour and Ray Davies characterisation to investigate the dreams, traditions and prejudices of suburban England", according to writer David Cavanagh.
Modern Life Is Rubbish was a moderate chart success in the UK; the album peaked at number 15, while the singles taken from the album charted in the Top 30. Applauded by the music press, the album's Anglocentric rhetoric rejuvenated the group's fortunes after their post-Leisure slump. Modern Life Is Rubbish is regarded as one of the defining releases of the Britpop scene, and its chart-topping follow-ups—Parklife and The Great Escape—saw Blur emerge as one of Britain's leading pop acts.
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