This was the album that very nearly broke the back of Blur in their native Britain. Released at the same time as Oasis' ''(What's The Story) Morning Glory)'', which sold considerably more copies, Blur became victims of the age old British adage of putting someone on a pedastal so you can knock them down. Suddenly, lead singer Damon Albarn couldn't walk down the street without someone yelling the latest Oasis tune in his ear. It was the mother of all backlashes. Which is strange, because ''The Great Escape'' is a superb album. Fizzling with musical invention, (the ethereal, nightmarish guitars on ''He Thought Of Cars'') and lyrical gems, (''They're on the leather sofa, they're on the patio./And when the fun is over, watch themselves on video'' from ''Stereotypes''), it was a noted progression from ''Parklife''. Guitarist Graham Coxon established himself as the finest of his generation, bending his sounds around Albarns songs in much the same way as a painter colours in the white gaps of a rough sketch (especially on the melancholic ''Best Days''). The grandiose ''The Universal'' is a genuine throat lumper, swelling with Bacharian strings. And ''Entertain Me'' revisits the stomping disco beat of ''Girls And Boys'', matching a cracking tune with yearning lyrics. It's no surprise to learn that The Smiths were idols of Albarn and co.There's even the token punk song, (''Globe Alone''), that Blur always throw on to their records. It's a measure of Blurs self belief that the ensuing backlash following ''The Great Escape''s release didn't break them. And it's a sign of genuis that they went on to make even better records. Because this is an excellent album.