After 12 long years since Blur released Think Tank, and 16 years since 13 with Coxon, Blur are back with The Magic Whip, and what an album it is. The Magic Whip will take you down a road you’ll at first find familiar, then before you know it, music you’d never expect, best part about both these things are they all sound awesome. But, enough talk, let’s get to it.
With Lonesome Street, Blur not only take us back to their 1993 – 1995 Britpop routes, but give it an update. With the same guitar and throttled bass rifts remeniscent of The Great Escape, it’s certainly a pleasure to hear and brings back the nostalgia. Whilst Blur do wish this album to be a Hong Kong inspired album, “the 5:14 to East Grinstead” definitely reminds that Blur are, and will always remain, a Britpop band in their routes. The songs positive feel is also a look in to the general feel of The Magic Whip, this really is a feel-good album and it’s great to hear. We’re also loving hearing guitarist Graham Coxon singing through the middle 8 of the song, just that extra something that perfects the nostalgia and sound of the song.
New World Towers is an acoustic song, which feels like an odd choice to put in between Lonesome Street and Go Out. The song has a darker and more mute sound than the other two, and unfortunately has a problem many songs get where it never builds up to where the song leads you to believe it would. It’s not a bad song, but we can see the song becoming a skip song over time, especially with the album tracklist arrangement which is a shame. Sounds like with a bit more time, it could have been so much more.
From the distorted beginning, to another signiture bass from Alex James, Go Out was the first song premiered from The Magic Whip and it’s done nothing but grow on us since then. Go Out is pure pop, a song about going to the local can’t be described as anything else if we’re been perfectly honest. Go Out is also the true definition of a catchy song, from the “oh, oh oh, oh oh oh, oh oh, oh” to the chorus, it’s hard for this song not to stay in your head after a few listens where you’ll find yourself shouting “to the local”, and then likely actually going!
From the synth that kicks it off, to the kick of the drum pedals throughout, it’s clear from the get go that Ice Cream Man is going to be a feel good song, and was instantly one of our favourites. It’s hard not to love the cheeky sound of the song, which is just amplified by Damons vocal from the second the song begins as well, “Here comes the ice cream man, parked at the end of the road”, the song has such an uplifting feel about it and brings us back to the Parklife days which is awesome.
Here comes the ice cream man, parked at the end of the road
With a swish of his magic whip, all the people are the party froze
Screwball chocolate chip, umbrella in his bright glove hands
Shake from the sun was his intention
You’d be excused from believing Thought I Was a Spaceman was something Bowie would have produced as the song has a real David Bowie esc sound and feel to it, which is most definitely not a bad thing at all. Our only critism with the song is something we’ve been saying about Damon Albarn for a long time, the way he plays guitars is incredibly annoying how he squeaks, getting past that however you’re left with an incredible song which has such an atmospheric feel, helped even more with the echo haunting sound of Damons vocals which continues up to the middle to end when Dave’s drums kick in to end the song. Just when you think you’ve heard everything the song has to offer, Graham Coxon steps in to the vocals and whether it’s the “you again” or the verse he sings, it all just comes together making an incredible song.
I Broadcast is the head-banger of the album, from the guitar scream kicking off to the full sound, some are already calling this song 3, which is ironic, not only as it is rather close to 3 minutes, but whilst it is a rock song it’s not quite Song 2 in intensity as it were. I Broadcast as a song isn’t much special but does rock, although we can see this one becoming a skipper later down the line. One thing this song will share with Song 2 is it’s live presence if recent performance are anything to go by of course. We’d probably put I Broadcast down right next to Lonesome Street as the closest “old-school Blur” songs list of the album.
My Terracotta Heart can only be described as a song which would easily be the next ‘Tender’ if it had that little bit more work. The song is alright, just nothing special which is really annoying as the potential is more than there. The song itself is about the relationship between Damon and Graham through the tough days with Blur, which in itself makes it more annoying that it’s like it like this. Luckily the song is far from a bad song and still
I’m running out of heart today, I’m running out of open road to you, and I know
You were emoted in a daze
If something broke inside you, Cause at the moment I’m lost in a feeling, that I don’t know
If I’m losing you again
From the marching drum beat that begins and ends the song, to the synth build up, to Damons robotic echoed vocals, There Are Too Many Of Us is an incredible song. Whilst at first it doesn’t sound like much, this song has grown to being our second favourite song on the entire album (spoler altert first favourite is still to come). We can’t get enough of the build up to the last chorus where the full synth flow kicks in to “We post this question to our children…”, just sounds incredible to then close on the marching drums which began it, love it.
We pose these questions to our children, leave the mountain strain
And live in tiny houses, Oh, same mistakes we make
Cause there are too many of us, that’s plain to see
All living in tiny houses, of our own mortality
Ghost Ship kicks off with a strong beat and bass rift with hits you the second it begins. The song actually reminds us of a Gorillaz song,(Dracula) with the bass and the mood it starts with, could easily pass for one. Ghost Ship also has a real motown sound to it as well and has such a smooth soothing melody throughout. Ghost Ship is probably the one song of the album that takes the longest to grow on you, it does eventually, but it’s one of those odd songs that takes a while to get, once you finally get it you’re left with a pretty decent song.
Till I ever hold you out there again, will you be mine?
Cause I’m on a ghost ship drowning my heart, in Hong Kong
It’s the last round boarding here tonight, out in the bay
I’ll need a lantern in you to shine out, bright rays
Pyongyang is the best song on this album, inspired by the recent conflicts in North Korea and beyond on how dictatorship and more are causing wars upon our world. The song itself begins with what sounds like a locomotive whistling, then in to what is a haunting sounding song which takes you through the journey of a someone hit upon the conflict of war and how it is affecting their life. The journey begins as they look out of their window to a world they don’t know anymore, to the hit of the incredible sound of the chorus, where the song takes you to where they truly realises who the sacrifices of war are. The song is easily the most powerful song on the album and a real ambitious song to take on, but we think Blur have an incredible winner in their hands and more than worth a listen. Pyongyang itself is actually the capital of North Korea which inspired the song.
Kid the mausoleum’s falling
And those perfect avenues, will seem empty without you
And the pink light that bathes the great leaders is fading
By the time your sun is rising there
Out here it’s turning blue, The silver rockets coming
And the cherry trees of Pyongyang, I’m leaving
Ong Ong can only be described off as that song you get up on karaoke and shout in a drunken voice and have a laugh doing it, and it’s hard to not notice the slight influences of Status Quo in the production. Ong Ong is yet another feel good song on the album and just a great song to listen to and put you in a better mood than before, well it’s one that works for us, especially when you sing with the song as well of course. It’s hard to say anything more about Ong Ong, it’s just another one of those uplifting songs, which really tells the mood of The Magic Whip really, it’s a joyous return to Britpop and we’re loving it.
If you’re caught up in the gales of the junk boat sea
I wanna be with you
End on a high is how the saying goes, unfortunately not true of The Magic Whip, and with Mirrorball. Mirrorball is the second song, and thankfully the last song, off The Magic Whip we have to say, whilst has so much potential, given a bit more work and time could have been so much more. The song isn’t terrible, but definitely stands out as one of the worst songs off the album, and stands out really due to the incredible standard the album has set. The song just never peaks, and it’s not really clear what the song is even about, everything sound ok, but just under produced unfortunately.
– Like many things in life, The Magic Whip is not entirely perfect, but pretty darn close. The only real “let downs”, if you’d call them that, are maybe ‘My Terracotta Heart’ and ‘Mirrorball’, but aside from those, you’ve a perfect Blur comeback just making us want more, make it happen lads. In the meantime though, we’re very happy with what we’ve got!
In Japan, there’s also a bonus track ‘Y’all Doomed’ which we will be unable to review, but will be getting and adding to the review in due course.
PURCHASE THE MAGIC WHIP BY BLUR RIGHT HERE;
The Magic Whip by Blur is released 27th April 2015, and it’s sure worth the wait completing the Blur journey ‘Think Tank’ left off. Whilst this is very likely going to be their last album, they’ve definitely ended it in true form, although we’d of course still love a ninth album to look forward to obviously;
iTunes (Download from 12am 27th April 2015)
Play Music (Download from 12am 1st December) ADDLINK