Album Review: Blur - The Magic Whip

****

Blur’s first album in 12 years will probably underwhelm those hoping for a return to the end-of-pier high-jinks of the Britpop icons’ most beloved output.

But while The Magic Whip carefully steers clear of anything vaguely evocative of Parklife or The Great Escape (Britpop’s very own bonfire of vanities), it does offer glimpses of the great band that always threatened to break out from the death grip of singer Damon Albarn’s obsession with the Kinks.

Related: Is there going to be another round of Blur v Oasis?

Indeed, The Magic Whip is best approached as a continuation of Think Tank — Blur’s finest LP, recorded in troubled circumstances that eventually led to the demise of the group. The difference is that guitarist Graham Coxon is back (he quit at the very beginning Think Think, burned out and at odds with his frontman) and brings a welcome grittiness — a quality which Albarn, for all his talents as writer and arranger, has never quite been able to imbue in his music.

Much has been made of the atonal qualities of The Magic Whip — bashed out during a week of downtime in Hong Kong in 2013 — and of the aesthetic parallels with Bowie’s Low. That’s overstating matters a little — even at its most self consciously ‘avant garde’ the album is always catchy and ready to please (Albarn’s idea of experimental, you suspect, is a song that lacks chorus).

Still, highlights such as ‘Go Out’ and ‘Terracotta Heart’ are endlessly fascinating, shot through with risqué flourishes and quirky leaps in tempo. Blur have made a engagingly esoteric art-project — a comeback record that doesn’t seek to draw undue attention to itself and, thus, does not confront us with the tragic sight of four middle aged men seeking to channel their younger selves. The record’s most striking quality is how comfortable it feels in its skin.

Blur play Electric PIcnic 2015

DISCOVER MORE CONTENT LIKE THIS


Lifestyle

Hannah Stephenson has advice on how to care for your garden when wet weather strikesHow to prevent and deal with waterlogging in the garden

If you're down in the epidermal dumps, exfoliation, hydration and decongesting is what you need.The Skin Nerd: How to prep and pep that played-out January skin

The Winter Show, which gets underway in New York this Friday, is a celebration of world cultures, from antiquity to the present.Time travellers are packing their suitcases for New York this week

“Finish him!” It’s one of the most famous lines in video games – in fact, they pretty much built the entire series around it. Mortal Kombat is notorious for brutal finishing moves, in which the characters kill off their opponents in horrific (and often humourous) fashion.Game Tech: Mortal line lives on in the cinema

More From The Irish Examiner