2009 saw Blur reunite its original lineup, including guitarist Graham Coxon, who left the band in 2002. Since then, the band has been pressured by fans and the media to release new material. It is understandable, considering how their last record, 2003’s Think Tank, while interesting, at times felt more like a work of Damon Albarn’s than of the group, particularly due to Coxon’s absence. Perhaps what their fans wanted is some proper closure, or just to see these four make great music once again.
Produced by Stephen Street, The Magic Whip, is based on jams recorded during a 5 day recording session in Hong Kong. Here, Blur runs through familiar territory, while also introducing a more mature side of the group. Tracks like the beautiful New World Towers and My Terracotta Heart (written about Albarn and Coxon’s friendship) deal with melancholy and isolation. These themes, while often found in most of Albarn’s work, allude to the moods established on his 2014 solo album Everyday Robots. The sonically rich Thought I Was a Spaceman and Pyongyang are wonderfully crafted. These songs, as many others on The Magic Whip, give it an overall air of sadness. Lonesome Street, Go Out and I Broadcast, are all loyal to Blur’s shape shifting pop styles of the 90’s. The flow between songs on the record is not that easygoing, making it a frenetic record.
Blur’s dynamic completely changed after the release of 1999’s 13, their most experimental work. For those hoping to get it back, The Magic Whip, might be a bit tough to chew on. Gone are their days of turmoil, for this is a record that has four band-mates trying to make amends and come to a resolution, both personally and musically. It deals with the unsettling and chaotic, in search for comfort, as opposed to their earlier work which sought to escape the mundane. That does not necessarily imply it is by any means bad, but it is surprising. One thing that remains as strong as ever, is the musical chemistry between Albarn and Coxon, whose previous tensions have eased, allowing them to fully complement each other on The Magic Whip.