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BLUR

★★★★

CRACK THAT WHIP

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By James Cerche
5th May 2015
18 years after their last album together, the once contested kings of Britpop are back with a fresh record featuring 12 new songs cut in Hong Kong between touring appointments. Blur have always been a band intent on putting together records that are as challenging as they are catchy. For every bouncing single on ‘Parklife’, there was an oddity, every tender moment on ’13’ was backed up by a strange sonic outburst that pushed expectations. Their refusal to be pinned down is what makes them an enduring act, we just don’t know what we’re going to get next. 2015 finds Blur in an interesting position. Damon Albarn and Graham Coxon have both released solo records in recent years, but it’s Albarn’s ‘Everyday Robots’ (2014) that has had the most impact on ‘The Magic Whip’, resulting in a record that slinks down the line between upbeat and dreary.
BLUR - LONESOME STREET

Opener ‘Lonesome Street’ sees the band taking off in a familiar and distinctly British tone, recalling their mid 90s heyday. Coxon’s kooky backing vocals instantly conjure the ghosts of the original fab four. Beginning with delicate pianos and dim drum beat, ’New World Towers’ could have been an ‘Everyday Robots’ leftover with vocals sounding like they’re coming down a phone line as Albarn opens his eyes to the city around him. The band have widely asserted that this record is the product of its embryonic environment, having taken shape and assuming aspects of Hong Kong in its inception. Listening to ‘The Magic Whip’ through this lens adds another dimension to the experience and the pulses go life within the songs bring both bustling images and pensive space to the foreground. ‘Go Out’ is layered with Coxon’s signature feedback, the band striding out with the swaggering threat of aged debauchery. Alex James’ bass work has long been the unsung champion of Blur’s success and he continues his influence throughout this set of songs, weaving from support to prevalence where required.

The middle of the record brims with elements of light electronica.

The middle of the record brims with elements of light electronica; ’Ice Cream Man's’ whirling blips held in place with acoustic guitars and 'Spaceman' driving along until it takes off. ‘I Broadcast’ declares itself as a 2015 version of classic britpop, raising the album’s pulse before centrepiece ‘There Are Too Many Of Us’ ushers in jagged militaristic strings and Albarn's affected drawl. The lyrics, written by Albarn while on a solo tour in Australia during the Sydney Lindt Siege, cut and brood with worldly paranoia while the band marches on to uncertainty. The whole affair is rounded out with the stunningly evocative ‘Pyongyang’, the raw, garage inspired “la la lah’s” of ‘Ong Ong’ and the Morricone twang of ‘Mirrorball’.

‘The Magic Whip’ is not a reinvention of Blur, it’s just the next step. Coxon likening it to a full stop, remaining unsure whether it’s at the end of a chapter or the entire book. It’s a mature collection of songs from four esteemed veterans who haven’t had anything to prove since 1999. Everything else is just sprinkles, and we’re lucky to have them.

Blur will be back in the country at the head of the enormous Splendour lineup later this year.

FAST FACTS
BAND: Blur
MEMBERS: Damon Albarn
Graham Coxon
Alex James
Dave Rowntree
FORMED: 1988
FROM: London
SOUND: Alt Rock / Britpop
WEBSITE: Www.blur.co.uk
FACEBOOK: Blur
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