Blur's 4th album, The Great Escape, had some big shoes to fill from the outset. Not only was it the follow-up effort to 1994's much loved Parklife, It was released into the soaring Britpop phenomenon of the mid-to-late 90's, and into a year that produced stand-out album's, including Oasis' (What's the story) Morning Glory? and Pulp's Different Class. This album was a massive release, but somehow, it got lost in the translation. A month before the album's release, Blur won the infamous battle-of-Britpop against Oasis, in which they both released singles from their new album's on the same day (Blur's 'Country House' V. Oasis' 'Roll With It'). Country House won the battle, But Oasis eventually won the war, with 'Morning Glory' completely engulfing 'The Great Escape', which is a shame, because this album is rather amazing.
The album opens up with a familiar Graham Coxon guitar riff that is Stereotypes, an ode to wife-swapping. This is followed up with the completely loveable 'Country House', in which the up-beat mood is halted by the bleak ballad 'Best Days'. The album starts off strongly and continues on like this with the punky 'Charmless Man', including piano by Damon Albarn, blistering guitar work by Coxon and solid-but-bold basslines by Alex james, with added backing Na-Na-Na's by all 4 members. Other Highlights of this album include the Space-themed 'The Universal', with it's simplistic instrumentation and bold string section, the humorous 'Mr Robinson's Quango' and the thought-provoking 'He thought of cars'.
This album was greeted by glowing reviews and successful sales when released, but is now regarded as lost amongst other albums of the Britpop era. Blur turned their back on Britpop after this album, completely changing direction to a more indie lo-fi sound with their next release, the critically-acclaimed 1997 self-titled release, 'Blur'.
The Great Escape is a very enjoyable listen, a forgotten gem and essential to the CD collections of anyone who loves British music.