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Is The Great Escape the worst Blur album?

Posted: 24 Jun 2020, 10:56
by Rubi
In my opinion, TGE has got to be the most divisive Blur album. It came out during the peak of Blur's popularity, with Country House getting to #1 in the infamous battle with Oasis. But it's no surprise that Morning Glory afterwards completely crushed it in terms of sales and reviews.

I don't know, the album has this very exuberant sound to it which can get very cringeworthy. Songs like the very Country House, Fade Away, Topman, Ernold Same, Dan Abnormal, and especially Mr. Robinson's Quango are some of the best examples of a band way over their heads. Don't even get me started on Ultranol and One Born Every Minute, which are simply atrocious.

When Parklike came out, it didn't feel exaggerated. Yes, it had that very distinct Britpop sound, but it seemed like a natural progression building upon MLIR. It wasn't blasted with horns and falsettos and ooh-la-la's to death like TGE was.

I don't think the album has many memorable moments either. I can think of only Stereotypes, Best Days, The Universal and He Thought of Cars. Maybe Charmless Man as well.

No wonder the band would overhaul their sound with the self-titled afterwards. I think no other band has managed to achieve such a drastic change in sound within only two years like Blur did back then.

Re: Is The Great Escape the worst Blur album?

Posted: 24 Jun 2020, 12:18
by Styopa
I think it's probably the hardest Blur album to listen to in its entirety.

Personally I don't very much care for Stereotypes. And I find it, Country House, Charmless Man, Mr. Robinson's Quango, It Could Be You, Globe Alone, and Dan Abnormal a bit of a sensory onslaught being sequestered all onto the one album . I don't think they're all bad songs per se, but it sounds like they've had everything and the proverbial kitchen sink thrown at them. Ernold Same also ends up sounding a bit naff.

That said, I think the album also contains some of the band's best work, especially The Universal and He Thought of Cars but also Best Days, Fade Away, and Yuko and Hiro. The latter may be overproduced but it possesses an undeniably gorgeous melody and seems truly heartfelt.

I think the other songs album, namely Top Man and Entertain Me, are fine too and would have worked OK on Parklife.

So ultimately for me, it's a really mixed bag. Mr Robinson's Quango is probably the song most representative of the worst excesses on the album and I would drop it and maybe replace it with No Monsters in Me. Ernold Same doesn't really contribute much and could also be replaced. However the album is 15 songs long running at a nearly an hour so could afford to lose 2 or 3 tracks really. I think it would be a much more enjoyable album to listen to in full without at least 2 of Mr. Robinson's Quango, It Could Be You, Globe Alone, and Dan Abnormal. Something like the following:

1. "Stereotypes"
2. "Top Man"
3. "Best Days"
4. "Charmless Man"
5. "Fade Away"
6. "No Monsters in Me"
7. "The Universal"
8. "Country House"
9. "He Thought of Cars"
10. "It Could Be You"
11. "Globe Alone"
12. "Entertain Me"
13. "Yuko and Hiro"

Re: Is The Great Escape the worst Blur album?

Posted: 24 Jun 2020, 12:56
by stephen
I think we've had a thread like this recently? I say recently maybe in the last few years?

I like it...I can listen to it all the way through and often revisit it. What I can't do is overplay it regularly, it starts to get very irritating.

There's some great guitar work so that for me its enough to keep it together and obviously the universal for me is the track that sticks out and levels the album up. The album really needed that. Charmless man is a great catchy track with some fun guitar work and there's hints of alex's bass playing throughout the album. I think a lot people miss the ironic nature this album represents, it's supposed to be overthetop british cockney apples and pears take the piss out of yourself kind of nature. Maybe the media spun it around and turned it into something else, and/or maybe we forgotten what blur were like around parklife (they had phil daniels singing ffs). This is overthetop full on pop drive, in a kind of way to get it out of your system and move onto something else, just like they did and it was great to see an "indie band" do it. I love clever indie/pop music the only thing I can think comes anywhere close to that is Franz Ferdinand. I think it's good when indie bands become mainstream for what they are (not for what they are pushed into). I'm contradicting myself a bit now. It's a good album.

Re: Is The Great Escape the worst Blur album?

Posted: 24 Jun 2020, 13:28
by Styopa
I think the fact it is so ironic is one of the main reasons people who do dislike it dislike it. Ironic can also sound aloof, it can come across as being derisory, mocking, cold.

Interestingly, whilst a lot of the songs on Parklife seem to concern ordinary (in inverted commas) people, the songs on the Great Escape frequently hone in on arguably less relatable characters. Songs like Stereotypes, Country House, Charmless Man, Mr Robinson's Quango are more sneering than their Parklife counterparts. There was a bit of that on Parklife too of course but I don't think to the same degree. Girls & Boys, Parklife and Bank Holiday could be taken ironically but there was also something celebratory about them in a way.

Re: Is The Great Escape the worst Blur album?

Posted: 24 Jun 2020, 14:18
by Pavlich
Styopa wrote:
24 Jun 2020, 12:18
I think it's probably the hardest Blur album to listen to in its entirety.
aye I think this is it for me too. Very saccharine and cheesy and bombastic but there's also just some shit songs on there. I also think of it as having multiple attempts on the same thing. Some albums aren't very good in the context of a good band's discography, but they offer something interesting – a counterpoint, their finest ever songs, necessary experiments to keeping them together or going onto something better – but this just doesn't and isn't.

I think the coolest thing about it is the artwork; unreal. Even down to the Budokan album. Really well done, creates such a bright vibe. I can imagine being 25 and taking off to the continent and playing this from a big discman, drinking Ichnusas in little white shorts, bright blue days with contrasting rocks at the grotto, you and your dickhead mates all together for a few days back in '95.

Re: Is The Great Escape the worst Blur album?

Posted: 25 Jun 2020, 07:47
by stephen
You make a good point on the celebrating (parklife) / mocking (tge). It's still British but there's a clear difference

Re: Is The Great Escape the worst Blur album?

Posted: 25 Jun 2020, 08:21
by TristramShandy
Rubi wrote:
24 Jun 2020, 10:56
No wonder the band would overhaul their sound with the self-titled afterwards.
And still all the seeds of the self-titled album are in The Great Escape...

Re: Is The Great Escape the worst Blur album?

Posted: 25 Jun 2020, 09:27
by Rubi
TristramShandy wrote:
25 Jun 2020, 08:21
Rubi wrote:
24 Jun 2020, 10:56
No wonder the band would overhaul their sound with the self-titled afterwards.
And still all the seeds of the self-titled album are in The Great Escape...
How so? I can only think of He Thought of Cars. Tame doesn't count as it was recorded much later.

Re: Is The Great Escape the worst Blur album?

Posted: 25 Jun 2020, 10:51
by stephen
yuko and hiro

Re: Is The Great Escape the worst Blur album?

Posted: 25 Jun 2020, 11:02
by Styopa
I would say the dark, and at points vaguely dystopian theme on TGE is developed in a more subtle way on S/T.

I think songs like Fade Away, Top Man, He Thought of Cars could quite comfortably sit along side songs like Death of a Party, Theme from Retro, Strange News from Another Star, Essex Dogs, especially if the production was toned down on the GTE selection.

Re: Is The Great Escape the worst Blur album?

Posted: 25 Jun 2020, 11:08
by stephen
yuko and hiro was the window into the self titled album, so the band say

but i agree there are elements of other songs that with a slightly different tone could have opened into the self titled album. They are the same band afterall :D

Re: Is The Great Escape the worst Blur album?

Posted: 25 Jun 2020, 11:21
by Styopa
Haha, yes, I think the fact the albums sound so different stylistically masks some of their similarities. They're definitely both Blur albums!

I wonder what marks out Yuko and Hiro for the band? I mean like the ones I've mentioned above I could certainly hear it on the s/t if the production was toned right down. But why that song in particular and not for instance the more obvious He Thought of Cars?

Re: Is The Great Escape the worst Blur album?

Posted: 25 Jun 2020, 11:48
by stephen
Styopa wrote:
25 Jun 2020, 11:21
Haha, yes, I think the fact the albums sound so different stylistically masks some of their similarities. They're definitely both Blur albums!

I wonder what marks out Yuko and Hiro for the band? I mean like the ones I've mentioned above I could certainly hear it on the s/t if the production was toned right down. But why that song in particular and not for instance the more obvious He Thought of Cars?
I'm not sure, I guess both tracks have a sad but warming/comforting feeling to them. Maybe it's because it's the end track so it leads into the next album? Perhaps this is what was meant. I've just done a bit of digging and can't find the quote anywhere, but I do seem to remember that one of the band members can list which song was the catalyst for the next album throughout their discography. Essex Dogs was the lead into 13

Re: Is The Great Escape the worst Blur album?

Posted: 25 Jun 2020, 12:53
by jeffnottingham
Hard to say 'worst', but imo their album of least merit (as an album) because it's the only one that shows little desire to progress their sound and grow - in many ways it's Parklife 2; the formula is working, give them more of that!

I was so happy buying it on tape aged 15 from WHSmiths for £5.99 and it didn't leave my walkman for weeks - but songs like Stereotypes, Country House, Mr R's Q, Charmless Man, Dan Abnormal... don't stand up for me now (I always really disliked Fade Away too).

But Best Days, HTOC, Universal, Top Man, Globe Alone, Entertain Me - all as good as anything on Parklife.

No Monsters in Me should replace Fade Away, and Ultranol should replace Mr R's Q - instantly better album :)

Re: Is The Great Escape the worst Blur album?

Posted: 25 Jun 2020, 16:33
by Rubi
Styopa wrote:
25 Jun 2020, 11:02
I would say the dark, and at points vaguely dystopian theme on TGE is developed in a more subtle way on S/T.

I think songs like Fade Away, Top Man, He Thought of Cars could quite comfortably sit along side songs like Death of a Party, Theme from Retro, Strange News from Another Star, Essex Dogs, especially if the production was toned down on the GTE selection.
Yuko and Hiro, perhaps. But Fade Away and Top Man? I don't hear it. And it's not just a matter of production. It's the whole style and vibe of the album that really has nothing to do with the self-titled, in my opinion. The two albums are lengths apart.
jeffnottingham wrote:
25 Jun 2020, 12:53
Ultranol should replace Mr R's Q - instantly better album :)
Ultranol is as cringy as Mr R's Q. The na na na's are like nails on a chalkboard.