Review: Blur 'The Magic Whip'

Ben Smith offers his thoughts on Blur's first album since 2003, The Magic Whip - But does it reflect the band as we once knew them?

Ben Smith

Date published: 28th Apr 2015

Image: Blur 

The Magic Whip is Blur's first album since 2003, conjured up out of the blue when they were unsuspectingly stranded in Hong Kong. So, before engaging with it, you have to ask yourself what do you really want from it, and what are you realistically going to get?

Times have changed since the infamous Britpop years, Madonna is well past her 'Vogue' days, she just necks rappers on stage and falls off them, this is not the nineties. Music has moved on, we've seen it with their opposite numbers Oasis, so it was kind of inevitable that Blur would make that same transition.

With Damon Albarn's solo project Everyday Robots still bandying about in our playlists, this had to signify something different, but does it? The early signs from 'Go Out' gave us an indication that it would, embodying Blur's classic blueprint with drawn out vocals and a buoyant melody built up on a catchy drum beat.

Carrying on from that lead single, 'Lonesome Street' (above) initiates The Magic Whip with identical convivial Blur swagger. However, the album then manoeuvres into 'New World Towers', a slice that'd settle in nicely on Everyday Robots track listing, setting a familiar trend for the rest of it.

'Ice Cream Man' and 'There Are Too Many Of Us' equally reflect their trademark quirky song-writing, only clad with a mellowed contemporary glamour that precedes the new evolution of the band.

That electronic shift the industry has undertook is perfectly embodied in 'I Thought I was A Spaceman' (below). Carrying a tribal backbone and moody cosmic flecks, it veers the track away from the chirpy cast that formed numbers like 'I Broadcast' and 'Ong Ong'. 

Each track is equally enamouring, but still representative of the roller coaster ride that detracts from the albums fluency, and going back to my previous suspicions, has the tendency to hark back to Damon's fresh in the mind solo effort.

It's effectively late night lounge music at its best, with twists of vintage Blur and well aged maturity. Damon is as imaginative as ever and Graham Coxon's still prolifically strumming the guitar - an impeccable amalgamation that unquestionably works and remains few and far between these days.