Britain’s most influential guitar band returns with a knockout album.
“I’m not sure whether we actually said, ‘This is going to be an album.’ We didn’t want to be that formal even among ourselves. We didn’t want to tempt fate.” -Graham Coxon of Blur
Fractious, formidable, and talented beyond measure, Brit band Blur has issued an album of new material, an album which is as surprising as it is exciting. Having suffered breakups, fist fights and the evolution of lead writer Damon Albarn into a solo superstar, it was hard to imagine that the band would ever reform, even for the mounds of lucre available to them for a world tour. To write together, to survive the days and weeks necessary to record same: not even their most devoted fan could have envisioned a new album from Blur in 2015. And ladies and gentlemen, what a stellar achievement The Magic Whip is.
The new album arose out of a tour of the Far East – they had a few days off in Hong Kong and booked some studio time – just to see what might happen.
As a long-time fan of the band going back to their Parklife days, I’ve had this new record on heavy rotation for the past few weeks. It’s not much to say The Magic Whip couldn’t have been made before now. Albarn’s writing is as post-modern as ever, but what brings a compelling freshness to the record is the maturity of his singing.
The centrepiece of the album is ‘Thought I Was A Spaceman’, and it’s not merely the subject matter than conjures up the best of David Bowie; it’s a many-layered marvel. Other key tracks are ‘There Are Too Many of Us’, a post-apocalyptic take on modern life and the shrieking boredom inherent in living in tiny boxes. Then there’s the sonic inventiveness behind ‘I Broadcast’ – a song straight out of five years from now. As for ‘Ghost Ship’, the track definitely evoked the experience of being in Hong Kong, and the strong bass beat carries the song beautifully.
My favourite track, though, is the romantic seductiveness of ‘My Terracotta Heart’- this is quite possibly the finest melody the band has ever put together.
Simply, The Magic Whip is Blur at the peak of their game. Surely one of the contenders for year end best-of lists.