Blast from the past: Blur’s The Great Escape

1995 was the pinnacle year of the U.K.-based alternative, anti-grunge movement that came to be known as Britpop.

Frontrunners of the genre like Blur, Oasis and Pulp had established themselves as Britain’s answer to Pearl Jam and Nirvana and were damn proud of it.

Despite instances of fame and substance abuse going to rockstars’ heads (i.e. the Gallaghers) the music produced would prove to be some of the best of the decade.

Following the success of 1994’s Parklife, The Great Escape was one of the period’s most anticipated albums. It met the expectations of fans and critics alike – NME gave the album a 9/10 and Q Magazine gave it a perfect 5/5.

Opening with the characteristically cheeky “Stereotypes” and followed by some of Blur’s finest singles like “Charmless Man”, “Country House” and “The Universal”, the praise seems pretty justified.

Yet listening to it again in 2010, the latter half of the album seems to drag on with songs that are rather forgettable.

Yes, Blur matured and experimented with new sounds and styles, but for an album many claimed was their masterpiece, The Great Escape seems kind of overrated.

The role that this album played in the music industry in the summer of 1995, however, cannot be forgotten.

A month prior to the album’s release, Britpop heavyweights Blur and Oasis released their respective lead-off singles “Country House” and “Roll With It” on the same day, initiating what became known as the Battle of Britpop.

With both bands vying for the number-one single in the U.K., the tabloids went nuts as a war of words between Blur frontman Damon Albarn and the Gallagher brothers exploded (culminating with Noel Gallagher proclaiming his wished for Blur to “catch AIDS and die”).

This rivalry sparked passion within fans, boosted record sales and provided gossip that England wanted to read about.

Though forgotten about in North America for the most part, the Blur versus Oasis stand-off (which Blur won, by the way) retains a spot as one the 90s greatest moments in music.

While Damon Albarn and the other members of Blur have arguably produced better work since 1995, The Great Escape nevertheless remains a nostalgic cornerstone in the world of British music, symbolizing a time when fans still bought CDs, bands still challenged each other to produce great music and before “Song 2” (the “Woohoo!” song) was released and played at every sporting event ever.