The Britpop kings are back, after 16 long years since Blur’s last album with Graham Coxon, the four lads return with a new LP titled The Magic Whip.
Blur’s last album Think Tank came out in 2003, after which each of the members went their separate ways, to relax, regroup, and work on other projects.
Speaking with BBC Radio 1’s Zane Lowe, Damon Albarn spoke about the band’s last record, describing Think Tank as “bollocks.” The frontman added that their new record is a “proper Blur album.”
The Magic Whip was recorded in Hong Kong and features twelve new tracks. The Asian influence on the LP is evident, it pervades everything from song lyrics, titles, sounds, and the album’s cover.
In an interview with South China Morning Post, guitarist Graham Coxon chatted about recording new material and the influence Hong Kong had on their music.
“Obviously the city is going to make its way into the music. A lot of the stuff guitar-wise reflected my anxiety at the intense environment of Hong Kong. And you have this kind of dislocation when you’re not recording in your own city.”
One of the most glaring impact’s of Hong Kong on The Magic Whip is the song ‘There Are Too Many Of Us’. It manages to give the feeling of total claustrophobia, while still giving the impression that in a city 7 million people, you can still feel lonely, isolated, and alone.
The first track to be previewed from the record was ‘Go Out’. The night before Blur announced the news of a surprise new album, by absolute coincidence I’d been listening to Blur’s debut LP Leisure. As soon as I heard ‘Go Out’ I thought that could easily be a tune from their first album.
The first three tracks on The Magic Whip, ‘Lonesome Street’, ‘New World Towers’, and ‘Go Out are quite upbeat and catchy. The album then moves on to some very different sounding songs, ‘Ice Cream Man’ conjures up memories of the song ‘Strange News From Another Star,’ while ‘My Terracotta Heart’ deals with the on and off again friendship between Albarn and Coxon.
“I knew it was going to be an incredibly sad song [My Terracotta Heart], which is why I put the crying guitar on there. What I didn’t know at the time was that the lyrics would turn out to be about Damon and I, our long-term friendship and the ups and downs we’ve had,” Graham told NME.
One of the last tunes on the LP is ‘Pyongyang,’ which drummer Dave Rowntree describes as “really beautiful.” Again the Asian influence is apparent, a track name after the capital of North Korea is testament to the political undercurrent of The Magic Whip. Damon sings the lyrics: “Pink light that bathes the great leaders Is fading, By the time your sun is rising there, Out here it’s turning blue.”
The Magic Whip may not reach the glory days of Blur’s ‘Life’ album trilogy, however it’s still amazing to have them back making fantastic music.