Friday, February 20, 2015

Whip It Good!

So, Blur are putting out a new album? Blur are touring? Blur are back together again?

I can’t keep up. Earlier this morning I was reading about Bruce Dickinson’s rather alarming cancer scare (and a speedy recovery to you, sir!), but this is a bit of a curve ball. However, it’s all true – Blur’s eighth studio album The Magic Whip comes out in April, and I’m getting rather stupidly excited at the news. 

It’s the first full album from the band in twelve years (their last being Think Tank), and the first full album from the band in full including guitarist Graham Coxon in sixteen years (his last with Blur being 13.) I’ve been a big fan over the years, and have followed them post-band really as far as Gorillaz… I have one of Coxon’s albums, which has been played a little… but I appreciate the band the most as one unit, really. The important thing is that Blur now are something of a re-set, no longer the US-shy Britpop combo but older, more world-weary, well-seasoned travellers with a few more musical influences up their sleeve. The last album came out after Damon Albarn’s Mali Music collaborations, and The Magic Whip was recorded on tour in Hong Kong: I wonder what that will bring?

So now I/we wait. The first single ‘Go Out’ is already streaming on the Web. It’s definitely Blur – there are Albarn’s sleepwalker vocals over the top of Coxon’s Fripp-ish stabs, with James and Rowntree providing the chugging rhythm at the back of the room; I’m pretty happy. It’s a bit skewed, but has a nice lop-sided refrain that stayed with me over this afternoon, similar to how my ears and brain first received the equally weird but ultimately-loved 'Beetlebum' eighteen years ago (yes, really). The album’s been described by Damon Albarn as reminiscent of Bowie’s Berlin set… I’m suspicious about that. Albarn and Coxon have shown in the past they’re not averse to mining Bowie’s back catalogue for ideas – some very obviously ('M.O.R'/'Boys Keep Swinging', 'Bugman'/'Suffragette City' – I could add Elastica’s 'Line Up'/'It’s No Game', but least said about Albarn’s ex and her influences the better); I’ve heard this sort of comparison before, and the result is usually bad pastiche or something quite off the mark. We’ll see.

Mind you, the last album I bought that summoned the ghost of Hansa Studios was… well lookee – Manic Street Preachers’ Futurology! Now there’s a hint if ever I had one.

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