Reviewed by James Lavender
After their reunion gigs in 2009 and 2012, the hype around a new Blur album grew like an exaggerated opinion poll in an election. Like the most recent election, Blur’s production and release of The Magic Whip, their first album in twelve years, is a surprising result to fans and critics alike.
Whilst Dave Rowntree has been training in law and dabbling in politics; Alex James making his cheese and hanging out in Chipping Norton with Jeremy Clarkson and David Cameron; and Graham Coxon trying to carve out his own solo music career, it is Damon Albarn’s growing musical styles which have informed heavily on this work. Throughout the album, there is a curious mixture of the classic Blur sound found during the Britpop years (see the track Lonesome Street, which sounds like a natural extension of For Tomorrow) and the influences of Damon Albarn’s musical projects of the past decade. You can hear echoes of The Good, The Bad and The Queen in New Town Towers and Go In, likewise you can hear Gorillaz in Ice Cream Man. You can even argue the Chinese themes and Hong Kong recording location comes from Albarn’s interest in Mandarin music.
The songwriting features all the hallmarks of Blur, from observations of modern society, such as Lonesome Street, to emotional numbers such as My Terracotta Heart. However, there are some genuine and welcome departures from traditional Blur sounds, like the disorientating and haunting ‘Pyongyang’ and the final track on the album Mirrorball, which has a long, polished guitar style which is unlike anything Graham Coxon has done before.
It is a bold and confident comeback album from a band who have influenced the British music scene for over twenty years, and no doubt it will whet the audiences appetite for the live shows later this year.
Recommended Song: Lonesome Street