Parklife

Last year's Modern Life Is Rubbish found Blur vaulting from the indie ranks, combating the slacker invasion and jousting with archrivals Suede by reviving the spirit of the Kinks, early Jam and Hunky Dory-era Bowie. Blur became the Great Brit Pop Hope. With one of this year's best albums, they realize their cheeky ambition: to reassert all the style and wit, boy bonding and stardom aspiration that originally made British rock so dazzling. Producer Stephen Street (Morrissey) lends a glossy finish to songs encyclopedic in their reference points (the Walker Brothers and Gary Numan, mod and glam memories, dole-queue reality). Parklife melds effects-heavy '60s guitars and cheesy New Wave synths into a joyful, highly musical noise. From perfect car-radio fare ("Girls and Boys," "London Loves") to breathtaking ballads ("To the End," "End of the Century"), this is explosive pop.

x