George Starostin's Reviews



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Alexis Macquoy <> (28.10.2002)

Finally George! You decided to review Blur albums! Great idea! (nevertheless you'll never be forgiven for having reviewed Oasis before). Leisure is Blur's less interesting album (though the band was named Seymour at that time), which does not mean it's a bad one. It's pleasant to listen, even though the lack of originality and diversity can make it boring. Although wait a minute... lack of diversity? Not exactly. Okay, it's all about brit-pop, but there are different kinds of brit-pop on this album, corresponding to different moods. You've got dynamic brit-pop : 'There's No Other Way', 'Bang' , 'Bad Day', 'Wear Me Down' are all entertaining songs and their choruses are so catchy that you can't help but sing. There's also soft, mellow brit-pop : 'She's So High', 'Repetition', 'Bad day'... lots of guitars, but a bit too slow and monotonous for my taste. The boring instrumentation is saved by the chorus melody. But the two trippy, ethereal ballads are for me the best songs on here. 'Birthday' is fascinating and depressive, and not only because of the simple, sad lyrics. The melody is almost non-existent, but Albarn slowly sings it through the whole song and he sounds sooooo tired and desperate that it makes the song one of the most melancholics songs ever (the line "What a pathetic day..." perfectly defines the word 'pathetic' , now doesn't it ?). Such an atmosphere would not appear on a Blur album until the song '1992' on 13. This is genius : so simple and so efficient. However, my favourite one on this album is 'Sing', which is even darker than 'Birthday'. The lyrics are also depressive, the continuous bassline is simply wonderful and Albarn whispers as if he was too exhausted or depressed to sing louder. "So what's the worth in all of this... if the child in your head, if the child is dead" sounds to me like the last words of a man going to jump from the Tower Bridge, just before the magnificent chorus ('Aaaah ! Sing ... to .... me....") seems to descend from the sky to bring us redemption. Oops, I think I'm a bit carried away. But that bassline!!!

To sum up, I think this album would deserve a rating of 10 (7 + 3 maybe) as it's in deed "good, but flawed". Some songs are a bit boring but never bad, some others are really entertaining, and the two Pink-Floydish songs I described before are for me the first signs of genius in this band. It's funny to notice that the band would always include at least one good dreamy and monotonous song even in the more brit-poppish albums (check out 'Resigned', 'This Is A Low' or 'Yuko and Hiro), before they really began to stick to experimental music. Anyway, no need to be a Blur fanatic to buy this album : it's good music, believe me. Or at least believe George Starostin!

Gerard Nowak <> (18.03.2003)

Some fools say that all the Blur albums are musts except for this one. It's wrong. In my opinion, this one IS a must, it is 'artistically' much more adequate than their later Britpop stuff. Heavily drawing from the 'clever pop' tradition of the 60's, but at the same time really original melody-wise, and disarmingly charming. The lyrics are stupid (that's the one blatant weakness of the album), some arrangements are somewhat thick, and some songs run for too long (especially the two slow post-psychedelic numbers on the A- side), but the songs are mostly sheer pleasure. My favourites are "Come Together" and "Birthday", both including complex and finely built-up vocal harmonies. I love the way Albarn shifts his diphtongs ("m[ai]kes me feel too small"). There's another vocal hook in "Wear Me Down" - watch (hehe) the harmony in "you, you wear me DOOWN"! And "Bad Day" is nice with the 60's organ, and a nod to Syd Barrett buried in the backward guitar solo ("isn't it good/lost in the wood?").


Gerard Nowak <> (13.03.2003)

Your idea to cut this album out to 45 minutes seems right, but it's so hard to chuck out any track! "Oily Water" deserves more than a Japanese import, if only for the OO-OO-OOH suspence - for me the best moment on the record. I also like "Miss America" - the wobbling guitars are full of allure and the song adds to the general diversity. "Coping" is rather simplistic, but it has a fine chorus. OK, I'd get rid of "Sunday Sunday" with its square melody, and - after all - the finale. And yes, the intermission bit is only funny once.

Sergey Zhilkin <> (02.04.2003)




A kind of chorus that can stay in your head for days, I suppose! Oh, I also love the way Damon starts reading white lyrics at the very end ("Jim says modern life it's rubbish" and "London ice can freeze your toes like anyone I suppose" are among my fvourite lines) while the other members of the band go la-la-la. Ah, this could be a very fabulous record if not the muddy production. I mean, these somewhat grungy guitars don't really fit this peice of fine brit-pop. I would love "Sunday sunday" if not the muddy sound. I would love "Advert" were the fast guitars replaced by piano or brass. "Resigned" is really cute but only think what could it be with clean guitars! Ah, this album arrived a bit too early, I suppose.

On the other hand, if there's an acoustic guitar, you can hear it all through the song. And there're lots of keyboards and piano! Love occasional brass section, too (like on "Sunday sunday"). The lyrics are very good, as well. I mean, yeah, they deal with the themes of little man ("Advert", "Sunday, sunday", "Starshaped"), well respected men ("Colin Zeal" with fantastic British accent and chorus:"Looks at his watch, he's on time, yet again") and modern life being rubbish ("For tomorrow", "Chemical world" and "Oily water") and others which have been already explored by Ray Davies but somehow Albarn manages to pen witty lyrics, which I think Ray would be proud of.

Oh, and you might not know it because you have an mp3-version but the original edition has lots of 4-second adverts, which I think should be funny (no, I haven't heard them, too).

Almost forgot one thing: solos. Blur guys don't insert lame and bland guitar solos like Oasis. They stick to simple but oh so refreshing keyboards, brass and synths. 11/15.

PS. Oh, well, as an afterthought: I really like this album and a 11 rating would be unfair. Solid 12 points for such a fresh melodies as "For tommorow", "Star shaped", "Villa Rosie" and "Turn it up". Yes, even though I would prefer the crystal guitars of "Parklife" here any day.


Adrian Subrt <> (09.07.2004)

It's hard to believe that no one has commented on this album yet, especially the entire nation of Great Britain. This album could be their national anthem, but they're reluctant to acknowledge that fact. It captures the English experience perfectly into one hour-long musical statement. Listening to this album is as close to living under Queen Elizabeth II as customs in my nation will allow.

Who would expect Blur to go disco? All the girls and boys across the nation are grooving to this album's opening track. 'Girls And Boys' is easily the best disco song of the past 20 years, but since disco has barely existed over the past 20 years, it doesn't quite take the gold medal of this olympic-like album. Next, 'Tracy Jacks' reminds me of another English band that you may have heard of, The Kinks. It updates Ray Davies' character-assassination style for the decade of Pop-Up Video. Parklife delves deeper into the reality of cockney existence with 'End Of A Century'. It's a pop song fellow countryman James Hook would admire. It's social commentary that Churchill would think deeply about.

Not since Shakespeare wrote of Falstaff has there been a more enjoyable creation from the island than 'Parklife'. This song conquers the British experience better than that punk Curthoyse could ever attempt. 'Bank Holiday' snarls a punk-ish smile on the proceedings, with Jesse Owens-like speed, and Nader-like social insight. But still, it may be a bit insignificant in the grand scheme of the album. You may be exhausted from the thrash of 'Bank Holiday', so Graham Coxon and company sympathise with you by performing an early-morning song of laziness and depression. Touching, really. However, 'Badhead' has no reason for that derogatory adjective to be its title.

Do you realise that all 6 songs so far have been very good? And from a 90's band? That's unthinkable. However, they can't keep it up for the whole album, as 'Far Out' chokes like Smarty Jones in the Belmont Stakes. Despite the coolness of its "astral" imagery, the overall effect doesn't hold up. They must have been taking many chunnel trips to the banks of the Seine, because 'To The End' could fit right in at a Montmartre cabaret. Beautiful lyrics, beautiful music, beautiful Paris. All of it brings tears to my eyes. Tired of croissants and impressionism, GC and company hop on board a hovercraft and cross the English Channel back to the city of Shakespeare, circa 1994. 'London Loves' speaks of the intensity of London life amidst a jerky, special-effects-laden background. And where does the heart of London lie? In the telecommunications of course! However, this disturbs Blur, and they rebel against it like good Southerners (Southern England of course) in the thrashing 'Trouble In The Message Centre'. Speaking of Southern England, you can't get more south than the White Cliffs of Dover. But 'Clover Over Dover' is definitely not south on the rating scale.

The next song, 'Magic America' speaks for itself. Only Graham Coxon could properly explain it to the inexperienced listener. 'Jubilee' the song is as bad as an idea of a jubilee year in modern society. Next, we reach a low point. This is definitely a low. Actually, 'This Is A Low' isn't really that bad, but it is long and at the end of the album, so I haven't had ample opportunity to really listen to it. I'm sure it's really better than I think. And 'Lot 105' is the last song on the album.

You'll notice that I didn't mention the instrumental, 'The Debt Collector'. This is because I don't believe in instrumentals. They belong solely in classical music, and not in 90's Brit-pop. Despite that fact, and the presence of a few weak songs on here, I still give it a thirteen out of fifteen, and it is also the Harrod's of Blur albums.

Gerard Nowak <> (31.08.2004)

I do appreciate the conceptual development, but the Rock/Pop balance (perfectly maintained on the previous album) is strained here due to over-glossy production. A matter of taste, of course, but for me this spoils the overall effect. I agree as far as the value of particular songs is concerned (except for the stupid "Girls and Boys" - a nice parody, but the sort doesn't LAST long, does it).

"Trouble" is the most original and best arranged song here, the hypnotic aura around a well crafted structure. As the atmosphere- seeker I go for "Badhead", of course, and I'm an atmosphere- finder. "Bank Holiday" and "Far Out" are the two remaining red ones. "This Is a Low" is a great song but the present rendition is not particularly striking. But I heard it live and semi- acoustic on a VIVA crap of a programme (alongside some oddity called "Wood Pigeon" I can't trace) and that WAS something. That very performance turned me on to Blur. Compared to that, the present version is really bland.


Stephen Rutkowski <> (15.01.2004)

I was very uncertain as to which direction you would go on this album. As you stated yourself it is one that often splits Blur fans, and I really thought you would slate this album as a bunch of pop crap. As this is the only Blur album I really like, and the only one I listen to on a regular basis, I am glad you have given it the thumbs up. In fact many people consider this album too commercial. My guess is that it was caused by the track ‘Country House’ and the subsequent video clip. I suspect the band had their tongues firmly in their cheeks when recording the video clip, but people won’t always understand this and take it at face value. There is a nice hodgepodge of styles on the album so there should be something to please everyone, even if purely guitar driven songs are under represented. For that I would point to ‘Globe Alone’ which is pretty good. For me, it’s the balla! ds that always bring me back to the album. ‘Best Days’ and ‘Yuko and Hiro’ are both beautiful in their own unique ways. Throw in the slightly inferior ‘The Universal’ and you have a great trio of softer songs. The electronic sounds in ‘Yuko and Hiro’ are amazing as they are cold, yet the overall texture of the song is not cold, but dare I say it, endearing. The vocal melody of ‘Best Days’ would probably compel me to put this as the best track on the album, but I’m still uncertain about that.

As for the pop songs, they are mostly great but I wouldn’t praise them as much as you do George. Sure, ‘Stereotypes’ is great and ‘Country House’ isn’t too bad either but ‘Charmless Man’ and ‘Dan Abnormal’ can annoy me quite a lot out of pure silliness. They are still good, I just probably have heard them too many times. As well, the constant “nahing” and “lahing” that you mentioned can get very tedious. But these tracks can’t compete with the pure silliness of ‘Mr Robinson’s Quango’. I wouldn’t praise ‘Top Man’ that highly either, but it is still good. As for the other tracks there seems to be some filler: ‘Fade Away’, ‘He Thought of Cars’, ‘It Could Be You’ (sorry George), ‘Ernold Same’ and ‘Entertain Me’. Although I must stress that the quality of this filler is very high compared to most albums. I’m still very uncertain about ‘It Could Be You’. You obviously enjoy it very much, but! it leaves me cold. And I’ve always wondered about the title of ‘Ernold Same’. If it is a reference to ‘Arnold Layne’, what do the two tracks have in common? Overall, the album is great with fantastic ballads and mostly enjoyable pop songs. In addition, the “filler” is of a high quality, forcing me to give this a 12 out of 15.

Sergey Zhilkin <> (24.03.2004)

Come on! What's wrong with your ears? "Mr. Robinson's quango" captures one of the best Blur's riffs (listen carefully after 2:00!) and it has a wonderful break ("He went to the toilet in the town hall//Got biro out and wrote on the wall") the guys dive into grunge ("Oooh, I'm a naughty boy") and then back to calssic hard rock with the riff I mentioned above. It's one of their best songs, I believe.

Otherwise, I agree with you, except, in my opinion, "Could be you" borrows the riff from Kinks' "Top of the pops". This is a solid album, indeed. "Yuko & hiro" is such a touching song ("We work for the company//They will protect us"), I just can't believe some people rate Oasis' "Live forever" as the best 90s ballad. "Stereotypes" is a bit noisy but these hooks, man! (yeah, I said "hooks", not "hook"). "Charmless man" and "Country house" are wonderfully arranged - the best Blur could get in copying Kinks. Although, wait, it's not copying: Coxon guitar lines are very keen and the actual melodies don't even try to rip-off Kinks. These songs are two more original Britpop cuts.

Get it today along with Parklife, a bit inferior album, in my opinion.

PS. I don't know whether it's a simple coincidence or not, but I find it quite interesting that "Dan Abnormal" is an anagram for "Damon Albarn".

Gerard Nowak <> (31.08.2004)

Best album? Weeeeellll... I'm not sure, though I definitely prefer this one to Parklife. Big disagreement on "he thought of cars". Sure, it's mainly atmospheric BUT the melody is fresh and not predictible like "Charmless Man", "Top Man" (another version of the former, conscious or not) and "Best Days". All the three (as well as parts of other songs on the album) seem caged in albarnesque chord structures that become self- repetitive. But, yes, "Could be You" and "Dan Abnormal" (the title of which is an acronym of Damon Albarn) are Blur at their best - powerful, amusing and capturing. But these were the last in a row, sadly. With the exception of "Middle of the Road" and a cople more, the Blur songs from this time on grew unexpectedly static.

As for the guitars, Coxon stated that this very record is the one with his most unimpressive work. I agree with that, his parts may suit the copositions well, but they add nothing to them. I was kinda surprised to find this out, because I rate the guy very high otherwise.

Adrian Subrt <> (20.06.2005)

Being a huge fan of Parklife, it's really touching how Blur had the good sense to create another album of nearly equal quality in the same vein. Although it's still an excellent album, The Great Escape doesn't seem quite as original as its predecessor. The two albums are fairly similar, but this one lacks some of the spontaneity and freshness of Parklife. Nevertheless, it's still a great all-around album, and really helps cement Blur's position as one of the best (if not THE best) bands of the 90's.

One category where this album outshines its ancestor is in its beautiful ballads. They've really perfected their operatic and successful attempts at being touching in such numbers as 'The Universal' and 'Best Days'. Damon Albarn really lets his heart out on his sleeve during these songs, reaching levels of emotional honesty that are sometimes embarrassing to listen to. But during one's own personal trials in life, these ballads prove to be immeasurably helpful in picking up the pieces of psychological wreckage and preventing suicide. 'Yuko And Hiro' also resonates on a strong level, making me feel for the Japanese culture that I'd previously experienced only through flashy video games. In fact, this song should be required listening to the people of the Western world, for underneath the bright, cartoonish facade of Japanese pop culture lies a people crying out in overworked desperation. The line "I can't sleep without drinking" tells me more about the society under Mt. Fuji than thousands of Manga novels ever could. Some of the other ballads, such as 'He Thought Of Cars', don't make me cry, but they do cause moments of mildly painful reflection, making them all worth a listen or two.

The other main classification of songs on this album is of course the "pop rockers". With a great deal of guitary enthusiasm, Coxon and company critique pretty much everyone in wealthy London society. They really drive the main theme of the album home, namely "rich people suck". Both 'Country House' and 'Charmless Man' further this class assassination, ripping the opulent English socialites to threads. On the other hand, 'Stereotypes' discusses Albarn's strange idea of wife swapping, supporting sexual freedom. Other high points on the album include 'It Could Be You', another catchy pop-rocker, 'Globe Alone', another social commentary, and 'Top Man', a hook-laden pop festival. The rest of the songs are worth hearing on the first listen of the album, but can be skipped for the most part thereafter.

Overall, The Great Escape receives a thirteen out of fifteen, but it is a low thirteen, compared with the very very high thirteen of Parklife. It is the second-best of Blur's seven studio albums, and easily has a place in the pantheon of 90's records.


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Sergey Zhilkin (30.01.2004)

And what did you expect? Did NME brainwash you by saying that Think Tank is a britpop? It's Damon Albarn, not Blur. I'm not gonna say that this album breaks new ground because it doesn't - that's for sure. Oh, well, it does break new ground for Blur itself and I'm actually wondering which direction they'll take in future, but that's another story. Well, I don't know how to start, really...

First of all, I gotta say this was the first Blur album I've heard in my life and it did impress me because I was surprised not to experience any voimiting reaction after hearing the lots of dubs. It all begins with "Ambulance", a great song, I think. Did you notice the way a guitar enters? Somewhere in the background you can hear electric buzzing, which could fit a punk song, but not this slow number, and then all of the suden other instruments fade and this buzzing comes to front line to hit your ears. A great trick. And I love the way the guys start chanting du-du-dududu-du like Beach boys would. "Out of time", main single (got to #4, if my memory serves me well), is a good calm ballad. That's a melody for you, if you want one. "Where's the love song to set us free..." - I just love Damon's voice here. Then comes "Crazy beat". Okay, I'm no freak, but I think it's more funnier than "Song 2". Sorry to say these words, but, umm.... uh, you didn't get the message, I suppose. It's a trash song (not to be confused with thrash), which you should have understood from these "YEAH YEAH YEAH I-YEAH!!!!"s. I mean it's kind of pun on all these The ....s bands that think screaming is essential in good 'we'll revive the rock-n-roll' single, don't you think so? At least, it's pure fun when Albarn starts singing "yeah i-yeah i-yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah" over backing "YEAH YEAH YEAH I-YEAH"s at the very end of the song.

"Good song" is... uh, well, its title is quite adequate - I like this acoustic guitar. And it does have a hook - "you seem very beautiful to me...". Well, one can argue and say it's the kind of hook that makes song sound flat (like in case with Kinks' "Young and innocent days"), but it's a good hook for a calm song anyway. And, as I already said, watch out for this good acoustic riff. "On the way to club" - a song, which I hated until heard the wonderful chorus "And I, I just wanna be with you darling". Interesting enough, I thought you're gonna dislike this song. "Brothers and sisters" now. You get it right, it's a modern gospel indeed but I think it's done with a bit of humour. Well, then again, who am I to know what's going on in Damon's head.

"Caravan" comes next. Well, I'm simply in love with this song - neat production (dig these small guitar licks that sometimes appear in right speaker) and charming melody supported by la-la-las. Hear this? LA-LA-LAs, my ass!!!! I feel very comfortable, when I hear la-la-la in every Blur song since "For tommorow" (don't remember if they had any on Leisure), you know. "We've got a file on you" is a clear pun on ... geez, maybe even hardcore live Ramones, I don't know. Except, Ramones didn't have such breaks between verses. "Moroccan Peoples Revolutionary Bowls Club" is another wonderfully arranged song - neat guitar and good bass work, too. Love that spontaneous solo, too. I know, "Sweet song" doesn't have a strong and catchy melody but I like it only because of its atmosphere. Mellow.

"Jets" might be the best song here, I dunno, it's really great, capturing memorable riff I can listen for hours. You know, it's trully genius, because not so many catchy riffs can cycle in your head for hours without becoming annoying. Together with pure pop of "Gene by gene" (another good melody, George!) and epic "This is a low"-like "Battery in your leg" song, it's a very good album all the way, I think. Admit it, George, there are melodies. There are more melodies than tricks, which are also good by the way.

PS. C'mon! Listen to the chorus in the "Gene by gene" and tell me it's bad. Eh, don't know how to change your opinion, really.

<> (05.02.2004)

I think ths album makes up for it's simple guitar lines with the slight twists in melody that sound beautiful to me. Different, and maybe not as good as their older stuff but still a good album.

Gerard Nowak <> (31.08.2004)

I also miss Coxon (funny thing is I miss him most when the last song on the album is on), but I would dare to state that the controlling idea behind the review (which is definitely right in general) blurred the evaluation of the particular songs (I'm such a dratted analyst at times). "On the way to the Club" is sheer beauty - the vocal hook actually IS there, and a big one too, but the synth coda! It sounds simplish at first, but the notes are precisely what they should be. Took my breath away for a while. "We've Got the File On You" is the funniest thing since "Far Out" (the Arabic flavour at the very beginning is the finest joke in it), and "Gene By Gene" is a first-rate, classic Blur by all means.


Gianni Martinelli <> (15.12.2005)

I'm so happy I've have bought Graham's solo album, they're all little gems. And I think HAPPINESS IN MAGAZINES will be "the sequel to THE GREAT ESCAPE" you wished to listen to after THINK TANK. I agree with you, I think Coxon is one of the greatest guitar players of the last 20 years. His wild way of playing guitar, his fantasy, his skills as a songwriter, the impredictability of his songs, his tiny voice... he even reminds me of Pete Townshend!

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