Album Review: Blur, 'The Magic Whip'


Blur, 'The Magic Whip'
Blur, 'The Magic Whip' (© 2015 Warner Bros./Parlophone.)

Regrouping between solo releases to play the odd festival show since 2009, no one knew if Blur would ever put out a new album. It's been 12 years since the last one, and a lot's happened since then — to them and to the world. But when Blur found themselves stranded after the sudden cancellation of a Japanese festival in 2013, they killed time by booking time in a Hong Kong studio, laying down the bulk of what would turn into The Magic Whip.

The only problem? They didn't have lyrics to go with the music they'd created — so Damon Albarn returned to Hong Kong to get his mind into the space to finish the songs — with the album not coming together until just a few weeks ago. Perhaps the artificial constraints pushed the band further than six months at Abbey Road might have done, because the end result is a record that stands among Blur's best post-Parklife work. Albarn's displacement makes this album feel like a musical counterpart to Sofia Coppola's Lost in Translation; it challenges listeners and it rewards with repeated listens.

Filled with Graham Coxon's Kinksian guitar riffs, Damon Albarn's experiments in dub and world music gained with Gorillaz and beyond, and their own history as part of the Britpop scene of the '90s, Blur's The Magic Whip winds its way thru a restlessly disconnected world. You can grab a sense of this from song titles alone — whether to "Go Out" to "Lonesome Street" or pondering the reality that "There Are Too Many Of Us" looking at a "Mirrorball" as we ride a "Ghost Ship" — the songs careen from personal to political and back, while the musical wandering that marked Blur's last few albums remains the one constant in the band beyond Damon Albarn's voice.

So do we need a new Blur album? Do they? Turns out the answer to each of these questions is yes.

Welcome back, Blur. We missed you.

Audience ratings for this album

Of The Current's listeners who submitted a rating for this album, 80 percent gave it 5 out of 5 stars. The remaining 20 percent were split evenly between 2 and 3 stars. Poll closed at 1 p.m. on Friday, May 1.

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