Blur return with their first album in 16 years as a four-piece, and show a rare insight into the bands mentality, drawing influence from the old, the new and solo projects. Like all great musicians, there will always be trials and tribulations throughout a bands career, and like with all the greats, guitarist and singer will clash. Things in the past have been no different with Coxon and Albarn, but they seem to have put everything behind them now, and on The Magic Whip, succeed in combining their creative differences to make some beautiful.
With Coxon supposedly the one who initiated this album – bringing together bits of material from a blur studio session in 2013 – it’s clear he felt there was new life to be breathed into the old dog of Blur, and he couldn’t have been more right. It was the perfect time to do this, and with the dust seemingly settled, Albarn and Coxon could be free to delve into each other’s influences. Lonesome Street is testament to this, and draws on the past to look to the future. Kinks style lyrics -heavily influenced by London nostalgia – draw on the old and new as guitars bounce around against eclectic sounds and rhythms. As Damon sings of undergrounds and ‘the 514 to East Grinstead’, Coxon pipes up sounding like early Syd Barrett era Pink Floyd, creating a varied layer to the song.
New World Tower throws a gentle nod towards Albarn’s solo work, with world music set against tinkling piano and sci-fi electronics, whereas, paradoxically, Ghost Ship is unmistakably influenced by the folk-tinged brain of Coxon. Go Out is where the two combine the best, as deep bass brings out the twists and turns in Albarn’s vocals, leading into a riff laden sound of mischief.
Considering this album was built around a short studio jaunt, the album is surprisingly well structured, and the work of producer Stephen Street must be commended for this. It appears with his input, the band have become a whole again, and time has actually helped heal old wounds with new scars of freedom. I Broadcast is a track that celebrates this new battle wound, drawing on influences from 80s rhythms, 90s hip-hop and early Coxon solo work. All of this set against Albarn’s vocal swagger leads to a dystopian sound with what could be labelled brit-pop for grown ups.
And that’s exactly what this album is: a progression for everyone. A progression for fans of old Blur, a progression for the band, and a progression for the music itself. The Magic Whip has been formed and shaped in the perfect way at the perfect time, and if anyone doubted that Blur were finished, listen to this and think again.