Albarn and Coxon reunite—effectively—on Blur’s ‘The Magic Whip’


Three and a half stars

Blur The Magic Whip

The key word in the title of Blur’s first studio album since 2003’s wheezing Think Tank is magic, given the previous improbability of another creative effort emerging from the once-triumphant foursome. But time heals all wounds, including the one between singer Damon Albarn and guitarist Graham Coxon, the latter last heard on a Blur album back on 1999’s 13.

The Magic Whip is a testament to their bond. What began—and nearly ended—as a typical writing/demo session in Hong Kong back in 2013 evolved into Albarn trusting Coxon to finish the work with producer Stephen Street, who helped hone Blur’s best albums, Parklife and Blur. When Coxon handed over the finished result, Albarn was so taken with it that he returned to Hong Kong to summon the spirit of the original sessions for the vocals and lyrics.

It’s easy to see why: The Magic Whip is aglow with Coxon’s deftly layered chord progressions, fuzzed-up Kinksian riffs and general sonic nitpicking. In turn, Albarn largely perks up from the croaky melancholy of his other projects; even when he sounds downcast, as he does on “My Terracotta Heart”—which is almost certainly about Coxon—he still delivers a vocal lilt or melodic snap. Elsewhere, the band conjures up its mid-1990s Brit-pop enthusiasm, but rarely repeats itself. “Lonesome Street” might be everything great about Blur in one gleeful jangler, but the spunky, space-age “I Broadcast” sounds just like the band picking up where it left off in 1999. With Coxon, Blur is whole, and mighty, once again.

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