Design By Humans
Published On: Tue, Jun 9th, 2015

Blur: The Magic Whip

The Magic Whip
(Warner Music Group)

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They could have done anything. They could have done nothing at all. The nature of this whole Blur reunion thing has remained indeterminate since they first regrouped for some shows in the summer of 2009. The fact that they managed to get it together with original guitarist Graham Coxon for some massive gigs would’ve been enough. The couple of singles they put out was just a bonus. They never promised an album and they could’ve quietly returned to their respective projects, satisfied to at least let the band go out on a high note. This is precisely why The Magic Whip is such a great album.

It came out of recordings made while the band was on a stopover in Hong Kong between gigs. With time on their hands they decided to set up some mics and jam. Thus The Magic Whip doesn’t sound like a forced effort, but like a bunch of old mates having fun and seeing if the old chemistry is still there. You don’t need to get very far into opening track “Lonesome Street” to see that it is. A quirky, upbeat pop song, “Lonesome Street” would have fit nicely onto any of the albums released in Blur’s mid-nineties heyday. It doesn’t sound dated, however. It’s classic Blur all the way. The same could be said for most of the album. Lead single “Go Out” stands next to old singles like “Beetlebum,” “Country House,” and “Coffee and TV” and holds its own. Its appealing blend of rock, dance, and dub perhaps owes something to the success of Damon Albarn’s other big group, Gorillaz, but his band mates’ contributions are unmistakable. Their last album, 2003’s Think Tank, had its moments, but this album clearly illustrates what they were missing without Graham Coxon. His unique style of guitar playing turns good songs into great songs (which is the case for pretty much every song here), proving once and for all that he’s the best foil for Albarn’s songwriting. “Ghost Ship” already would’ve been the best song on this album (or the next Gorillaz album for that matter), but when Graham’s guitar enters, it becomes an absolutely essential Blur track.

Not every song is a slam-dunk, but leaving any of them off would be a detriment to The Magic Whip as a whole. “Ice Cream Man” is very weird, but Blur were always experimenting. Even the overall lackluster “I Broadcast” has single potential. The song that best captures the feeling of Blur’s whole reunion is “Ong Ong.” What should be a corny sing-along with a silly title sounds more like the song you would play to welcome home returning heroes. In this case, the heroes are welcoming themselves home.

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Blur: The Magic Whip