very British pop

The Great Escape (Virgin)

By Gary Savelson

Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, Morrisey, Roxy Music, all the danceable British pop music from the late 80's to date, and flawless production—by now you should have a feeling for The Great Escape, Blur's fourth album. It's decorated with horns and strings that give it a grand appeal, plus you have Englishman Damon Albam's alto/baritone drawls to appreciate.

Blur honorably has moved in a different musical direction on this record. Sticking to the days of old ("There's No Other Way," "She's So High,") couldn't possibly be a challenge for the band. Hence, they mixed their usual pop guitar, synthesizers, and rhythm with trumpets, saxophones, trombones, violas, violins and cellos. Do you think the studio bill was high?

Albarn has always written lyrics with an English audience in mind, making specific references to home in his songs. There is nothing wrong with this of course, but foreign audiences might not always understand his point. Has everyone heard of Trafalgar Square (London) or the British colloquialisms "tellie" (this should be an easy one to figure out) or "bum" (your backside)? He also has somewhat of a cynical and satirical writing style that is almost depressing.

Some of the good cuts on The Great Escape are "Stereotypes" (typical Blur pop), "Country House" (late Beatles), "The Universal" (a ballad with beautiful strings and horns). On that last tune, Albarn is cynical or optimistic about the future of human kind — your guess is as good as mine. This song sounds like Morrisey if he was an R&B singer in the late 50'searly 60's.