For many people the word ‘Blur’ will provoke memories of last Saturday night and some cheeky chaps jumping around a stage shouting ‘WOOHOO.’ This myth that was cultivated in the nineties and that continues to surround the London outfit disguises the fact that Blur are one of the most experimental bands in British history. Their previous two albums 13 and Think Tank saw the group progress by integrating electronic pieces with a classic indie sound to create a truly distinctive personality. Thirteen years later Blur continue to develop even further. The Magic Whip manages to achieve a continuity which would allow it to serve as the soundtrack to a dystopian, sci-fi film whilst boasting brilliant hits that could stroll onto any greatest hits collection.
After fifteen seconds of futuristic noises and distant sirens, the album begins with ‘Lonesome Street’ where an upbeat tune is accompanied by melancholic lyrics: “What do you got? Mass produced in somewhere hot.” This is the first hint that Damon Albarn will continue his assault on modern life that began over two decades ago and became particularly prevalent in his recent solo endeavour Everyday Robots. One of the stand out tracks, ‘Go Out’, soon swaggers in carrying a dark but dance friendly beat accompanied by customary cynical lyrics. Damon groans: “I go out to the local, by myself,” but his local has not changed since 1996. Blur’s sound and stature have altered but their message remains the same. Though the music invokes a smokier, more modern bar, Damon remains surrounded by “too many western men” and a “greedy go-getter”.
‘Pyongyang’ showcases all of the greatest aspects about the band in less than five minutes. It initially creeps in with metallic clinks before oozing the vibe of a retired astronaut gunslinger. It soon changes into a confident singalong that could rival ‘Tender’, and it’s not difficult to imagine thousands of people in a field shouting “and the perfect avenues will seem empty without you!” The track then floats away in a trippy haze leaving the listener wishing they had put it on loop.
Upbeat ‘Ong Ong’ is guaranteed to come to an indie night near you. Escapism is rife with lyrics such as, “I got on a boat on a hot sunny day to get out of this town.” This optimistic number departs from the brooding nature of the album and hints at how future material may sound. The album finishes with ‘Mirrorball’ which tantalisingly halts and restarts It carries a similar vibe to ‘Pyongyang’, bringing the album to a natural end.
If 13 and Think Tank were the journey, you can’t help but feel that The Magic Whip is the destination; Blur have succeeded in creating a masterpiece that transcends genres, a truly seminal album. They have never put themselves in a single scene or movement, the music industry and public did. Britpop is dead, but Blur are very much alive.