Blur’s first album in 16 years to feature the original lineup does the right amount of looking inward and outward, forward and backward. It opens with Lonesome Street, a song described by guitarist Graham Coxon as a summation of the British band’s sound: a bit narrative, a bit psychedelic, a bit eclectic.
Coxon left in 2003, so those muscular riffs not only reassure us that he’s back but also that Blur are re-energized as a result. Work on the album began in Hong Kong during a break in touring. Coxon and producer Stephen Street then refashioned that material and brought it to Damon Albarn, who returned to Hong Kong for lyrical inspiration.
The Magic Whip draws on Coxon and Albarn’s unresolved feelings toward each other, which are apparently essential to their chemistry, as well as on geopolitics and locales like Hong Kong and Pyongyang. That mix of worldly and familiar references, moods and textures ensures that The Magic Whip buzzes with urgency, even at its most serene and existential (or when Albarn rehashes his banal reservations about modern times).
The record acknowledges that the world is much bigger than the grievances of a rock band, but more interesting for them.
Top track: Ghost Ship