Blur: The Magic Whip (Warner Bros.) Review | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
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Blur

The Magic Whip

Warner Bros.

May 08, 2015 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share


Discussing Blur a couple of weeks ago, a friend of mine posited that they were always the most progressive of the big Britpop bands. Personally, I've always preferred Pulp and Suede, but it's hard to disagree with him; after all, Bloodsports is unrecognisably a Suede album and, though there was clearly a shift in style between Different Class to This is Hardcore, Jarvis Cocker's solo albums suggest that if Pulp recorded something new, there's little chance it would be a massive stylistic departure. As for Oasis, well...

"Lonesome Street," the opening track on The Magic Whip, suggests that Damon Albarn et al are laughing in the face of my friend's theory. Based around a stomping, straightforward rhythm section and loud guitars to match, it couldn't be any more Blur if it tried. To the band's credit, it proves a false dawn.

Not everything on this comeback album works-"Ice Cream Man" is annoying with its nursery rhyme-like melody, "Go Out" is a sludgy mess, and "New World Towers" drags- but at least they're trying. The first of those songs surprises with the prominence of its bubbling keyboards and the second goes heavy on the guitar squalls.

If you've got the album, you'll notice that these are the first four tracks and that's another issue: the best songs are all stacked in the second half. It's pleasing to hear the album get better as you listen to it, but it doesn't really flow. "There Are Too Many of Us" is great, with its dramatic string-section lead giving it a call-to-arms feel which, combined with Albarn's treated vocals and the obfuscated backing voices, recalls R.E.M.'s magnificent "Orange Crush." On the other hand, "Ghost Ship" is positively groovy and showcases a hitherto unheard style from Graham Coxon's guitar. It's also a nice surprise to note how regularly the band turn to experimental electronic sounds, given the lukewarm response to Think Tank.

The Magic Whip is far from perfect and it's far from the best album by a band whose greatest strength I've always considered to be their hits. It has to count as a success though, because Blur sound like a band from 2015 rather than 1995. My friend had a point. (www.blur.co.uk)

Author rating: 6.5/10

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Average reader rating: 9/10



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Dan Lucas
May 13th 2015
1:36am

Just before anyone picks me up on it, that should say “unmistakeably Suede”