The first album from Blur in twelve years, born from a chance cancellation of a gig back in 2013, much to the disappointment of fans at the time but to their unbridled bouncy joy today. With original members Graham Coxon, Damon Albarn, Alex James and Dave Rowntree, returned from cheese dreams and high musical art to produce the twelve tracks of The Magic Whip. Vinyl double LP and CD from Parlophone.
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It’s not exactly the standard way of making a comeback album. Blur had a couple of cancellations on their recent world tour jaunt so decided rather than sit around in hotel rooms they’d go to the studio and record some tracks. Coxon got bored in January and finished it off then Albarn dusted down the cockney vowels and sang all over it. But this scattershot approach seems to have worked in the albums favour in that it has none of the hint of desperation that marks many comeback efforts.
Its a mixed bag of an album that seems to hand pick styles from across their musical spectrum. Opener ‘Lonesome Street’ is the closest it gets to full on pop and is one of those jaunty efforts that sit perfectly in the mid-point between Syd Barrett and Madness. A firm, enjoyable start. The magpie nature of the album is best exemplified on ‘New World Towers’ which immediately lowers the pace with an under produced slow mover. ‘Go Out’ was the first track that was unveiled to the general public and after a few plays is one of the two or three album stand outs - a great dubbified track explodes into life on a noisy chorus, the bass line is superb, recalling The Clash’s ‘Straight to Hell’ and makes you wish for a bit more of Albarn’s The Good, the Bad and the Queen project.
Albarn’s recent solo ‘Mr Tembo ‘ sounded as if it was written by an eight year old child and ‘Ice Cream Man’ is no different though is better than that despairing effort due to interesting electronics and jaunty acoustics. Let’s move past that one and onto the other album standout for me ‘Thought I was a Spaceman’ which is a stretched out piece of other worldly rock, drenched in delay, the track slowly builds in intensity ‘til it reaches fever pitch with some great synths and krauty drums.
It’s loose and thoughtful throughout, this is no regular comeback where bands make versions of their earlier music as if written by focus group (I’m looking at you Suede), it’s Blur with the benefit of age and many years working on separate projects. It doesn’t try to re-write the past, its not bouncing around trying to be ‘Country House’ nor is hope-you-like-our-new-direction self-conscious. The downside is that towards the end it tails off with a few too many heartfelt ballads about falling out with your old mates (aka ‘middle-aged-men-getting-sad-about stuff-core’) but this is a solid and worthy effort.
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