Blur – The Magic Whip Review


Twelve years beyond their last album and a whole sixteen years after Graham Coxon’s last contribution to an album in 1999, Blur are back with the much publicised and promoted The Magic Whip. Their eighth studio album was very much unplanned and unexpected in Albarn’s eyes. He believed their performances in 2012 were the last of Blur, but when he was played back the rough recordings of the bands five days of recording in secrecy at Avon studios in Hong Kong; he and Coxon knew there was something promising. The recordings were worked on with old Blur producer Stephen Street and Albarn fleshed out and refined the recordings to have the album released this week. Though the production of another full studio album by one of Britain’s all time great bands is a momentous occasion, it would be optimistic to think that with this album would be their best or offer anything vastly different. It is still Blur though, so we should expect something of that standard at least.

‘Lonesome Street’ feeds off from a dulled synth into the rattling back and forth of the typical Blur instrumentals and the light popping electronica flashing from it. The song peaks and troughs easily as directed by Albarn’s more mature, but still typically familiar vocal style along with the Beatle-like backing vocals and the occasional, but prominent electronic chords that gives the song a great sense of familiarity and comfort. ‘Go Out’ is more reminiscent of 13 era Blur with  scratchy Coxon guitars, it’s great sonic charge and Albarn’s more slurred vocal.Unlike this version of Blur however, is the greater point of focus and direction running through the track that comes from the tightened bass-line from Alex James and the wiry guitars shredding their way though the distorted interior of the instrumentals. ‘My Terracotta Heart’ is made up a hand clap and distant rhythm guitar section that meanders it’s way in and out of focus. It’s a delicate and minimalistic track that focuses on more melodic and harmonious vocals from Albarn, yet it still has a keen sense of originality about it and a less than obvious engagement.

‘There are too many of us’ has marching-like percussion from which the typical instrumentals and string sections flow. Damon’s vocals are set though a megaphone-like echo. This adds to the instrumental flow to create a distant and gazing opening to the song. As the bass comes in and the percussion picks up a greater purpose, there is a more rotating feel to the song’s progression. It’s a track with a great balance of contemplation and a culmination of sound which sees the song come to some sort of fruition without abandoning it’s ideals at the start. ‘Ong Ong’ is very much a faithful tribute to Blur’s past dizzy heights. It’s droning backing vocals and light glazed distortion do nothing to separate Blur from themselves in 1995. With other track’s there is a familiarity, but still a fresh feeling of engagement from it. This isn’t existent here. ‘New World Towers’ and ‘Thought I was a Spaceman’ offer up the truly modern version of Blur though modulated minimalism and more expansive, contemplative production. It’s an album that does strike that balance of familiarity and novelty in a way that they haven’t promoted enough. Having said that, if you’re a multiple decades devotee or someone born long after ‘Parklife’ then you can find something to take from The Magic Whip.

Blur – The Magic Whip = 8/10

Owen Riddle @oriddleo1995

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