A band reuniting after 10 years and working on a new album is certainly an oddity. However, when a show in Japan was cancelled, British indie rock band, Blur, found themselves bored in Hong Kong, China. To pass the time, they worked on a little bit of material together. They spent these few days making music that may or may not ever see any sort of release. The band continued to work on the project back in a British recording studio once they were finally home, and in 2014, band member Damon Albarn announced that “There are about 15 songs [being worked on]” and that work on a new Blur album was continuing.”
Jump forward to April 28, 2015–nearly 2 years after that cancelled show in Japan–and Blur’s The Magic Whip is released in full. Positive reviews began pouring in for the album. The British Telegraph gave it five out of five stars and called it “a triumphant comeback”. Pitchfork gave it a 7/10, and called the band “untarnished by the passage of time.”
Disregard the band’s history and you’ll still find The Magic Whip to be one of the best albums released so far in 2015. It could be cited as an example 5 years from now that rock never died, only grew and changed. The album’s opener, “Lonesome Street,” is a very simple rock song, and does an excellent job of communicating the albums raison d’etre, to convey the same cheery British-pop rock that Blur became known for.
The themes of The Magic Whip vary surprisingly throughout the album. A lot of the songs in the album clash with the opener–more somber tracks like “Ice Cream Man” and “Mirrorball” are two of the premier tracks on the album, and the downright prophetic “There Are Too Many Of Us” is arguably the best track on the album. “I Broadcast”, halfway through the album, plays a festive tune at a high tempo not found anywhere else in The Magic Whip. It’s less of a turning point and more of a refresher. The next track, “My Terracotta Heart”, goes back to the same dreariness found in the other songs. One of the last tracks, “Ong Ong”, is the most joyful on the entire album, so much so that it is overly happy compared to the rest (“To the isle of the black kites and the wishing tree/I wanna be with you!”).
There’s not a lot of filler in this album, and overall the sound is great. If you enjoy indie rock, this is one of the year’s must-listens. Blur has done an exceptional job, revitalising themselves to produce something new and exciting, while still holding on to more traditional rock elements.