Few albums score a 12 out of a possible 10, but that's how Melody Maker scored Blur's fourth album, The Great Escape, when it was released this month in 1995.

Americans have a hard time grasping just how big the Britpop artists were in their native U.K. On a whim back in 2001, I caught Oasis at the Hard Rock Hotel in Las Vegas, which at the time held about 2,000 people. A large percentage of those 2,000 were Brits who flew the 478,000 miles from England just for the show. (Note: Mileage expressed in American public school geography terms. Actual mileage may vary.)

"Why would you fly all this way to see a British band?" I asked one young woman. She answered, "Because you can't see them in a place this size in England. I've only seen them at Wembley." The old Wembley Stadium holds 80,000 to 90,000 people, so I could see her point.

Blur is the eccentric brainchild of longtime friends Damon Albarn and guitarist Graham Coxon. At first, Blur's music was unapologetically British – a mixture of shoegaze, the Beatles and New Wave popsmiths like XTC. There's also a little ska in there, courtesy of the pair's shared childhood fondness for 2 Tone and bands like the Specials. That's an amazing list of influences.

But in September 1995, the American market was in the throes of post grunge: Live, Silverchair, Collective Soul and Bush were sharing chart space with pop artists like Seal and Ace of Base. There was no room for quirky Brits who evoked everyone from the Jam and George Orwell to TV's Batman theme with their lead single, "Country House."

The single didn't chart in the U.S., but it went to No. 1 in the band's home country; in fact, the track was front page news. Blur's label intentionally dropped "Country House" on the same day that rivals Oasis released "Roll With It." NME feature the two bands on their cover along with the headline "British Heavyweight Championship." Other print outlets (along with the BBC) picked up the story, and U.K. music fans had their own little horse race to follow.

Oasis finished a respectable second in the Battle of Britpop, but eventually they would get the best of Blur in the U.S. when "Wonderwall" cracked the U.S. Top 10 a few months later. For that matter, the single's parent album, (What's the Story) Morning Glory, released a month after Blur's The Great Escape, reached the Top 5 in the U.S. while Escape peaked at No. 150. Albarn commented on the album's lack of commercial success outside of England in an interview with the Australian edition of Rolling Stone:

I didn't care... Overseas success wasn't the point. We just got really into the whole idea of music hall and English-sounding things. It was interesting to us, we enjoyed mucking about with it. I'm amazed that we actually managed to sell as many copies of 'Parklife' and 'The Great Escape' as we did worldwide considering in essence how difficult the musical genre would be for people."

American critics savaged the album. Spin's Chuck Eddy declared that he wanted to "kick their precious little shins," although he offered that when the music was "swirling fast and busy, it's wonderful." Albarn himself has gone on record stating that The Great Escape is one of two "bad records" that he is made.

But the years have been kind to The Great Escape – perhaps in America we just needed a little time to catch up. Here at Diffuser we ranked the record No. 7 in our 2013 list of 10 best Britpop albums. Perhaps more amusing is Spin's complete 180 on the album in early 2015. Writer Annie Zaleski says --

'Escape' imagines a dystopian world dominated by diminished ambitions and government dysfunction, which creates legions of bored suburbanites, frisky housewives, privileged wankers, TV-watching zombies, and beaten-down corporate drones. Thanks to Albarn’s slightly disdainful, straight-faced delivery, these lyrics are both winking and dead serious; it’s hard to tell if the members of Blur despise these characters or feel like they hit too close to home... But besides possessing lyrical depth, 'The Great Escape' also features Blur’s last great musical achievements....

Twenty years makes all the difference, it seems. Fair or not, for most people Blur is synonymous with front man Albarn, and part of what makes Escape great is the confessional tone of many of the songs. One doesn't have to be much of a puzzle master to catch that the title of the song "Dan Abnormal" is an anagram for Damon Albarn, for example. In 2011, the BBC called album closer "Yuko and Hiro" "the most honest song [Albarn] ever wrote, evidence that he didn’t always hide behind the mask of his creations, that sometimes the mask slipped and we saw something honest about the songwriter."

The Great Escape's follow-up, 1997's self-titled Blur, finally broke the band in America. Albarn and Coxon stayed together for one more album, 1999's 13, and then went their separate ways. They reunited in 2008 and released The Magic Whip in early 2015. It's a good album, but The Great Escape is a great album, a masterpiece of Britpop. If you don't own a copy (and even if you do), look for the special edition released in 2012 with 18 bonus tracks. You won't regret it.

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