woensdag 3 juni 2015

The Magic Whip. Blur

Oasis vs. Blur? There never was a match as far as I was concerned. I just didn't like the latter, tried though I may, there seldom was a match. Something changed with one of the solo albums of Graham Coxon. A whole album of 'Coffee & TV', one of my favourite Blur songs, was alright, I thought. When the band called it quits, I didn't care at all. It was the same with Oasis to level things. The band hadn't produced a totally good album since 1995. So now it's 2015 and Blur comes with a new album. Let's give it a few spins with the fresh ears I have where Blur is concerned.

And I have to admit that the first spin surprised me quite a bit. Let's leave it at that until I've listened a bit more.

This positive mood remained in place, so far, I can add. I can live with Damon Albarn's voice on this album and with the music presented on The Magic Whip. Blur presents a very mature sound and a melancholy mood that somehow belies the enthusiasm the interviews around the release of The Magic Whip present. There doesn't seem to be a real joy in playing together again. The overall mode is far to subdued for that. The joy is in something else, the level of competency Blur reaches in the interction between the four.

The story behind this album is as weird as the cover is beautiful in a Chinese sort of way. A cancelled Japan gig left the band stranded in Hong Kong, after which a studio was booked and the band worked on new songs that were finished by Graham Coxon at home in England. O.k., why not just tell that you've worked together on new songs? It doesn't really matter, does it? The first album in circa 15 years of a foursome Blur was presented to the world.

'I Broadcast' is one of the more exuberant songs on The Magic Whip. A song that reminds me most of what went on in the 90s with Blur. A lot of the other songs remind me more of David Bowie on his last album and some of his later ballads. However that is only one part of the story. Songs may be laidback, there are several distinctive features that make them stand out. On 'My Terracotta Heart' it is the almost irritating percussion going on in the back and stands out as it is so far away from my expectations. This ballad with a totally weird percussion. The same goes for more songs. Coxon had his way with them and was able to come up with original thoughts for normal songs. Exactly what sets them apart.

'There Are Too Many of Us' starts with a marching rhythm and slowly fleshes out to so much more. Not unlike the only Sioen song I truly like, 'Ease Your Mind'. Patterns slowly change, instruments added, the rhythm slightly altered. Slowly 'There Are Too Many of Us' changes into a song of modest epic proportions. 'Ghost Ship' is a laidback song, with U.S. influences. Some J.J. Cale, but also late The Doobie Brothers, that relaxed sort of disco/funk. 'Ghost Ship' is just so well done, that I can listen to it again and again.

That Blur is no longer the total leader of the world in the U.K. We can hear that in 'Pyongyang'. Blur definitely does an Elbow here. And gets away quite nicely with it to. An interesting ballad kind of song. By then it has become quite clear that 'The Magic Whip' has not got a lot to do with Britpop. Blur has moved beyond the 90s and proves that the individual members have no need to return to the days of old. The fans of old may, and are served with opening song 'Lonesome Street', but the nostalgia of and for the old hits are performed a couple of time a year here or there. Blur has moved on and I'm not complaining.

In short I truly like The Magic Whip. Later in the year we'll see if the album tops Noel Gallagher's latest solo outing (read all about that here: http://wonomagazine.blogspot.nl/2015/04/chasing-yesterday-noel-galleghers-high.html). For now I acknowledge that Blur has come up with one of the more original and surprising, albums of 2015 and that did come as a nice surprise.


You can listen to 'There Are Too Many of Us' here:


or buy at Bol.com:

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