Why is the world so bothered about a Blur reunion ?
Damon Albarn has barely paused for breath since the quartet’s last record in 2003, making music in so many different guises it’s hard to keep track.
Graham Coxon has made a succession of terrific albums of guitar rock, showcasing a talent for melody as strong as his bandmate’s.
Alex James and Dave Rowntree might have been quiet musically but it’s fair to say precious few people having been chomping at the bit purely at the prospect of hearing James’ bass or Rowntree’s drumming again.
It’s not even just because Blur, just as much as erstwhile competitors Oasis, represent in the minds of many forty-somethings the 1990s, a decade enjoying a huge nostalgia boom at present.
The reason there is so much anticipation surrounding The Magic Whip is that just like The Beatles and The Smiths, Blur’s chief competition in the great British band stakes, together the quartet are far more than the sum of their parts.
Albarn wrote melodies as good as many here on his debut solo album Everyday Robots, but there’s something about the noise the band make that means The Magic Whip is the superior record.
Coxon’s guitar is outstanding throughout, one minute brutal and coruscating and the next gentle and warming, and there’s no-one whose voice complements his playing quite like Albarn’s.
It sounds almost like a greatest hits, stating with what the band cheerfully call the “Blur stomp” (Lonesome Street), through effortlessly commercial ballads a la This Is A Low and The Universal (the similarly gorgeous New World Towers and My Terracotta Heart) and onto Bowie-esque other-worldliness in the shape of Thought I Was A Spaceman and There Are Too Many Of Us.
It’s typical Blur, too, to name the catchiest and poppiest song here Ong Ong, eschewing the far more radio-friendly I Wanna Be With You, working presumably on the basis that if a meaningless title was good enough for Song 2 in 1997 it’s good enough now.
When they’re on form there is no-one to touch them – and The Magic Whip is the thrilling sound of a band at the peak of their powers, their most consistently brilliant record since Parklife and possibly their best of all.
Like this? Try these: David Bowie, Heathen; Super Furry Animals, Radiator
By Andrew Greenhalgh