2003 was an interesting year. Homeland Security was officially formed, Manchester United won the Premier League, Dizzee Rascal won the Mercury Music Prize with his debut album and Blur released their last album Think Tank. To call its gestation difficult would be an understatement. Multiple producers and studios made for such a fractious atmosphere that guitarist Graham Coxon left the group.
Think Tank went on to enter the charts at number one but even so, Coxon’s absence could be clearly felt. The band later split and went their separate ways with varying success.
- Damon Albarn (Singer, Keybaords, Dyslexic): critical acclaim with his Gorillaz, Journey to the West and Dr. Dee projects
- Graham Coxon (guitarist): released four more critically acclaimed solo albums
- Alex James (Bass): brought a farm and made cheese
- Dave Rowntree (Drums): became a solicitor and a Labour Party candidate
After a 6 year hiatus Coxon re-joined and Blur were rebooted, albeit only as a live act head-lining some of that summer’s biggest festivals.
It would be another 6 years before blur had any new studio content to satisfy their baying fans.
Back in the studio
The Magic Whip is now released and track, Lonesome Street kicks off the proceedings. Sounding like an outtake from Parklife, it’s says “We’re back, but don’t worry, we haven’t gone all electronica. We’re the same band you liked when you were a kid, we’re just a bit older but we still like bouncy indie pop”.
New World Towers is a slower, more melancholy song and has more in common with their 1999 album13 and Think Tank (2003).
Go Out is a slow burner, but there is an undercurrent of malice and danger to it. At any moment it feels like it could explode in cacophony and distortion. Luckily when this does happen all their teasing is worth it, as the outro is exquisite.
So what have we learnt from this new Blur album?
Firstly they are still capable of releasing amazing music. There are no bad songs on the Magic Whip and the sequencing is spot on.
Secondly they aren’t afraid to embrace their past, as well as continually pushing things forward.
Thirdly Coxon’s guitar playing really compliments Albarn’s older, huskier vocals. Their interplay at times is breath taking. Albarn has said that this isn’t the end of Blur, given the quality of this album let’s hope he’s right, but don’t leave it another 12 years lads…
Nick Roseblade is a writer for Metro.co.uk. He is a “30-something culture obsessive from west London”.
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