Review: Blur - Magic Whip
But we live in this weird era where no popular brand, franchise, or reasonably successful band are allowed to stay dead for long. Whatever the real compulsion for a new Blur album, internal and external desires meant that one day it had to happen. It was inevitable.
At least Magic Whip was made on their own terms. Admittedly those terms were the result of boredom. There was no actual plan to record an album, the band just found themselves at a loose end in Hong Kong after a festival they were headlining was cancelled.
So we find Blur in this awkward middle ground, being four grumpy middle aged men who only occasionally get on, trying to create something new with little preparation or desire to do anything particularly different.
Magic Whip is a dull collection of half-ideas, all set at mid-tempo, with little wit or invention apart from a few interesting textures provided by the returning Graham Coxon.
Coxon is pretty much responsible for the album's completion, as the original recordings were all but abandoned. Coxon took the half finished work home, polished it up then presented it to Albarn in December 2014 to see if it was worthy. Albarn then added his vocals separately a couple of months later.
Magic Whip feels hamstrung by this disconnect, it's a cold experience, mopey in its outlook. It doesn't help that Damon Albarn had only just come off the Everyday Robots tour and he carries exactly the same mournful, laconic ennui and future-phobic despondency as he did on that record.
Of course Blur don't actually need to write another 'Song 2', 'The Universal' or 'Park Life', Blur's strengths have always been in progression and expanding their sound. However that spark of ingenuity is missing from Magic Whip. Instead this is the sound of them very carefully feeling their way towards making music together again and not wishing to rock the boat too much for fear that one of them will storm out of the studio. Fair enough, you can't blame them for that. It has been 16 years since the full band was last together in this setting.
Maybe now that most of their hatchets have been buried, the next Blur album will see them stretch once again and create something we've never heard before. It's probably enough for now that they're able to be in the same room with each other.