Each month here at Our Sound we take a look back at an album from twenty five years ago that month - September 1995 in this case - a time when Britpop ruled the world and Blur were one of the biggest bands in Britain. Their third album The Great Escape followed on the heels of the phenomenally successful Parklife album and was released a month after the infamous Blur v Oasis chart battle of that year.
Recorded at the Maison Rouge studios in London and produced by the legendary Stephen Street (The Smiths, The Cranberries, Babyshambles), The Great Escape was the fourth studio album from Blur and reached number one on the UK album chart. The album spawned four singles: Country House, The Universal, Stereotypes and Charmless Man. Upon its release the album received very strong reviews despite Damon Albarn in later years describing it as “messy” and one of the two bad records he feels he has made.
The Great Escape opens with Stereotypes (which reached number 7 in the UK single charts) a catchy look into mid life crisis and middle age mediocrity - “wife swapping is your future/you know that it would suit ya” - the guitar solo sounds like the Grange Hill theme tune which is laughable but, well, it is also totally Blur from that era. County House, Blur’s submission in the v Oasis chart battle is a timeless britpop classic. A sing-a-long triumph that errs just that little bit away from novelty record territory. A song you could listen to all day.
Best Days slows down the pace before the album picks back up with Charmless Man which was a top 5 hit. Nanananananana goes the chorus and so do we - another hot single that encapsulated the moment. You can’t help but feel nostalgic and a bit fuzzy listening to this.
Fade Away features a wurlitzer, is more experimental musically and in contrast to the album so far it is deadly mediocre. Top Man is a forgotten gem of a song. The Universal, one of the band's biggest and most recognisable hits, needs no introduction. It really, really, really could happen.
The rest of the album, a further eight tracks, is a write off. To put it bluntly, the likes of Ernold Same and Entertain Me are mere filler. At fifteen songs the album is obviously bloated; sometimes less is more.
After listening to The Great Escape I am left with a mixture of nostalgia, warmness and disappointment. The single releases aside, this is a poor album that upon reflection feels like a band knowing they were making their last pop record before venturing into more alternative territory. **1/2.
Order The Great Escape on Special Edition Vinyl here