Chemical World

Right at the heart of Modern Life Is Rubbish, “Chemical World” offers as perfect a summary of modern citylife, illustrated by an intriguing set of characters that each deserve an entire song devoted to them. There’s a girl who works at a checkout counter that tries to escape from her exhausting routine life, and gets rewarded with eviction from her appartment by an unsympathetic landlord. There’s a voyeur and an exhibitionist, in a scene reminiscent of James Stewart’s character and Miss Torso in Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window, complementing eachother’s lives. They have probably never exchanged as much as a single word, but they “stick together so they never get lonely”, while in the acoustic version on the Basically Blur promo they “sleep together”.

This gorgeous song, with it’s spiralling guitars, ends on a pessimistic note however; “they’re putting the holes in, until you can see right through”. Who “they” are remains unresolved. Could it me the townies themselves? Their landlords (in the broadest sense of the word, including local and national gouvernment and employees)? All the same, it’s a grim prediction of these people’s futures, and one that’s still as valid today as it was in 1993. In fact, one could argue we are more transparent and own less of ourselves than ever the farther we move from the year 1984.

“Chemical World” became the second single to be released from Modern Life Is Rubbish, and managed to reach a miserable number 28. It cannot have been for want of a good video, because the promo picturing the band hanging around in forests and fields and frolicking with birds and bunnies is one of the more lovely they have made. It’s as if someone said, “we got to go to the colourful country for this one, because if we make a black and white one in London like last time around everyone who sees it will want to hang themselves”.

The studio version was probably too good for the Americans, so they released a demo on their Modern Life Is Rubbish. Another (at least, I think it’s a different one, but it’s been a very long time since I heard the one the USA got) demo was a bonus track on the single. A wonderful live version is on the Japanese “It Could Be You” single.

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Published in: on July 3, 2007 at 9:54 am  Comments (3)  

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3 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. I’m open to correction on this, as I have the US album but not the single – but I think the American version is different from the demo. IIRC, it was rerecorded at great expense because SBK didn’t like the UK single – but ended up sounding very like the demo anyway.

  2. Thanks for the info. I’m gonna find out next time I visit my sister; she has the American album and I have the single.
    However, I don’t think they actually re-recorded it for SBK. What I believe happened is the song didn’t exist at all, and the American record company wanted another song as there were “no hits” on the record, and the result was “Chemical World”. The band demoed the song, then recorded it properly and SBK actually preferred the demo and stuck that on.

  3. And now for the final word:

    The American MLIR has the demo.
    The single has a reworked version of the demo.


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