Some of rock's best albums have dealt with the subject of English life--which is strange, since they all paint English life as endlessly boring and stupid. Well, write about what you know, they say, and from the Kinks to Elvis Costello to Morrissey, it has made for fine pop art.
The same approach has made Blur one of the biggest bands in Britain in years--and rightfully so. The group's fourth album is its third straight more-or-less concept piece cleverly examining pointless pursuits and pompous yet pedestrian pretensions. Such self-explanatory titles as "Charmless Man" are supported by serrated, droll lyrics and irony-filled baroque-pop music carrying a Beatles-Bowie sense of drama.
The portraits here are even less flattering than those on last year's "Parklife." Still, the lyrics and Damon Albarn's average punter's voice, like Ray Davies', bear an affectionate pathos for the hapless characters, especially in the touching, Eno-esque "Yuko & Hiro" that wraps up the album.
But will Americans know (or care) what a song like "Mr. Robinson's Quango" is about? (A \o7 quango\f7 , it seems, is an investigation of business improprieties.) Despite a terrific crop of distinctly English new bands, the most successful (though certainly not the best) import here has been Bush--which sounds like it's from Seattle.
\o7 Albums are rated on a scale of one star (poor), two stars (fair), three stars (good) and four stars (e\f7 x\o7 cellent).\f7