Blur
The Magic Whip


4.0
excellent

Review

by Rudy K. STAFF
April 28th, 2015 | 173 replies


Release Date: 2015 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Definitely better than any Oasis record in decades.

The most amazing thing about The Magic Whip is not the very fact of its creation, but rather how seamlessly it slides into Blur’s catalogue, a new chapter of a book that’s ink still looks fresh. In the grand scheme of rock band reunions, the six-year gap between 2003’s Think Tank and the band’s only somewhat surprising run of shows in 2009 is trivial. The “only somewhat” is cynicism speaking in an age where nostalgia pays handsomely; the “surprising,” of course, is the very real enmity between Damon Albarn and guitarist Graham Coxon that split Blur apart and transformed Think Tank from a promising exploration to a flawed, if beautiful, record. The paths Coxon and Albarn took in their solo efforts were expected yet entirely satisfying – if they never brought it back, it would have been a tragedy, but you could understand. Yet when Blur came back to Hyde Park and played the hits, it seemed not up to par but entirely necessary; tens of thousands of people singing along to “Tender,” Coxon and Albarn and James and Rowntree killing it as if they had been rehearsing these hits incognito the past few years. That they were able to put another six years of touring and botched recording sessions behind them and put out this long-gestating, bizarre little Blur album is a testament to the band’s separate creative energies, pooled back into one. The Magic Whip sounds like what these guys were always meant to do.

I never thought I’d get a chance to review a new Blur album, and contextualizing the band and its history from the perspective of The Magic Whip would be a rich and broad well to draw platitudes from, but there’s no need: this is, simply and purely, a great, if blissfully weird, Blur record. There is little in the way of grand statements here, nothing that screams “we’re back!,” although the conspicuous placement of “Lonesome Street” as the opener here is a wink to the past. That propulsive acoustic strum, the Britpoppy harmonies, Albarn and Coxon trading lines back and forth – the band, back together. More indicative of Blur the guitar band (i.e., Blur) is first single “Go Out,” a song that plunks ahead entirely on the strength of Albarn’s lethargic, self-flagellating lyrics and the almost single-minded viciousness of Coxon’s riffs, which contort and distort themselves like an unruly sine wave before that closing guitar solo rips triumphantly, senselessly through. Along with “I Broadcast,” the neon-colored jolt of energy that marks the record’s midpoint, these are the songs that harken most clearly to Blur’s heyday. They are also, happily, nearly anachronisms on a record that’s more interested in exploring heretofore unseen paths.

Following “Lonesome Street,” “New World Towers” is morose and plodding, its themes in keeping with Albarn’s fixation on technological alienation and blithely literal lyrics. The hazy electronic production and delicate brushes of detail, a chintzy keyboard here, Coxon’s slithering lines there, would seem to point towards the latter part of Blur’s catalog and some of Albarn’s extracurricular work. But forecasting The Magic Whip is a fool’s errand. This is a dense, twisty record that, largely due to Albarn’s always entertaining, if predictable, storytelling and the band’s willingness to never sit still, somehow remains incredibly fun. Where the synthesizer motif of “Ice Cream Man” should grate, instead it feels like an indispensable part of the song, an oddness percolating around an atmosphere that is strangely anxious, that cryptic vibe all of the appeal. “Thought I Was A Spaceman” sounds like nothing the band has done before, a drab, synthetic drone number degenerating into a swirling, almost jazzy dystopia, while “Pyongyang” takes that same sonic courage and merely highlights the beauty in its shimmering crests of sound. “Kid, the mausoleum’s fallen / and the perfect avenues / will seem empty without you / and the pink light that bathes the great leaders is fading,” Albarn sings wistfully, and, sure, this is another typically Albarn transcription of a visit he made to North Korea, but the message behind the words is transparent.

While producer Stephen Street is on hand to lend some of that ‘90s fairy dust, The Magic Whip feels less like a touchstone and more like an album out of time. The sequence from the mournful, wrenching “My Terracotta Heart,” where Albarn and Coxon’s relationship gets its most sophisticated, and touching, examination yet, to easy highlight “Ghost Ship” showcase the lengths Blur can stretch their sound while still sounding definitively like Blur. The martial warning of “There Are Too Many Of Us” nestled up against the resolutely easygoing, dare I say sexy MOR-aping “Ghost Ship” is a stylistic juxtaposition few bands would have the stones to pull off. That Blur do and then drop the dumb, cell-phones-in-the-air sing-along of “Ong Ong” and have it feel all part of the same wonderfully scraggly thread is what makes The Magic Whip such an exciting, and, yes, comforting listen. For if Blur can pull this off in forty hours of Hong Kong downtime and assorted scratched rehearsals, then the future is searingly bright indeed. This is the kind of record that proves Blur are about as interested in capturing past glories as they are in maintaining a pristine legacy. As The Magic Whip proves, that legacy is a malleable entity, and the band remains concerned only with stretching it in ways they’ve never considered before.



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Comments:Add a Comment 
klap
Staff Reviewer
April 28th 2015


12199 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

"My Terracotta Heart" - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WbvKJEHUXXw

oahmed
April 28th 2015


81 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

So glad this was worth the 12 year wait. Great review.

RadicalEd
April 28th 2015


9546 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Review and album are awesome.

klap
Staff Reviewer
April 28th 2015


12199 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

yo arcade your review was really great btw maybe my favorite from you



Parklife

Modern Life

13

The Magic Whip

S/t

Great Escape

Think Tank

Leisure

WhiteNoise
April 28th 2015


3667 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

This album is fucking great. Perfect production for them.

zakalwe
April 28th 2015


29303 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Modern Life is Rubbish was such a refreshing change from what was going on at the time. Who would've thought that after 20yrs Blur still continue to make inventive, relevant records that hold something that the vast majority don't.

VheissuCrisis
Emeritus
April 28th 2015


1386 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

Where the synthesizer motif of “Ice Cream Man” should grate, instead it feels like an indispensable part of the song, an oddness percolating around an atmosphere that is strangely anxious, that cryptic vibe all of the appeal.



Well that's brilliant.

Rowan5215
Staff Reviewer
April 28th 2015


42852 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

what's Coxon's solo stuff like, any good?

great stuff btw klap bb

zakalwe
April 28th 2015


29303 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Check 'people of the earth' from happiness from magazines row. The tune rules, plus love travels at high speeds is a good un. A fair bit of his stuff is shite.

zakalwe
April 28th 2015


29303 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Having checked the names I've got em all wrong but you'll know what I mean

Rowan5215
Staff Reviewer
April 28th 2015


42852 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

just jammed, song riffs pretty hard but the riffs sort of lose that spacey Coxonness that I love, still a decent jam though

zakalwe
April 28th 2015


29303 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

And if you jam spectacular you'll find a distinct similarity in the vox to your old pal zak

ButteryBiscuitBass
April 28th 2015


11449 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

'Are You Ready?' is the best song on Happiness in Magazines

trackbytrackreviews
April 28th 2015


3407 Comments


Blur was always superior to Oasis anyway

wtferrothorn
April 28th 2015


5849 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Blur>Oasis [2]

Plus, Damon Albarn gave us Gorillaz and the Gallagher twins are fucking twats.

BMDrummer
April 28th 2015


14646 Comments


huh this exists

Beauers
April 28th 2015


393 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

Would take Oasis over Blur any day, but not to say I haven't loved Blur stuff in the past, in fact Blur, 13 and Think Tank are absolutely fantastic. The rest, including this, aren't good.

trackbytrackreviews
April 28th 2015


3407 Comments


woo hoo fuck you

SowingSeason
Moderator
April 28th 2015


32826 Comments


Never even heard these guys before

Digging: Coldplay - Everyday Life

oisincoleman64
April 28th 2015


2336 Comments


Probably their best album



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