The Magic Whip Reviews

Discussion about the band and related projects.

Moderators: tom_cas1, Caitlin, MrMagpie

Levitz
Posts: 69
Joined: 21 Mar 2015, 20:22

Re: The Magic Whip Reviews

Post by Levitz » 25 Apr 2015, 05:46

Text of the Times Review....


Rated to 4 stars
All bands get back together these days — if they split up at all — so it wasn’t a huge surprise when in 2009 Blur returned for a series of sold-out shows. During the glory days of the Nineties Blur were to pop what new Labour was to politics: middle class, image-conscious and bristling with the bulletproof arrogance that comes with good times. No wonder swathes of people in their thirties and forties piled into the reunion concerts and sang along to Parklife, Girls & Boys and all those other anthems of the boom years — at least until it was time to catch the last train home.

The shows were a success, but a new album is a trickier proposition. After Blur disintegrated in 2003, Damon Albarn created Gorillaz, bypassing the problem of working with other people by turning the band members into cartoon characters. He went on to collaborate with Malian musicians, write experimental operas on Chinese Buddhist fables and 16th-century alchemists and in 2014 he released his solo debut Everyday Robots, a bout of midlife introspection that was as far from Blur’s world of chippy irreverence as you could imagine.

Meanwhile, guitarist Graham Coxon left Blur in 2002 to make jagged indie rock, bassist Alex James gave up a life of playboy decadence to make cheese on his Cotswolds farm and drummer Dave Rowntree became a Labour campaigner and a solicitor for the London firm Kingsley Napley. How could a new album by this one-time band of brothers, now middle-aged men with very different concerns, have any sense of truth?

The Magic Whip, the first album proper by all four members since 13 in 1999, works because it doesn’t try to recapture the Blur of the mid-Nineties. You’ll be disappointed if you’re expecting mockney posturing and clever lyrics, but in their place are reflective songs that sound like a product of age and experience. On a sad ballad called My Terracotta Heart, Albarn laments the passing of a time “when we were more like brothers, but that was years ago”. The equally doom-laden There Are Too Many of Us finds him fretting about overpopulation. It’s a long way from singing about a house, a very big house, in the country.

That The Magic Whip exists at all is, surprisingly, down to Graham Coxon, always the one who was the most uncomfortable in the white heat of Britpop. Over five days in Hong Kong during a tour break in 2012 the band members holed up in a studio and recorded fragments of tracks, chiefly to see if they could still make new music together. Then Coxon and the producer Stephen Street worked on the recordings in isolation before convincing an initially reluctant Albarn that there were the seeds of a new album in there.

Blur was Albarn’s vision and if the band hadn’t been driven by his inexhaustible ambition and work ethic it would never have become the huge proposition it did, but you can see why he wouldn’t want to go back. Not only is he not the type to trade on former glories, but also the band put an end to his lifelong friendship with Coxon. That Albarn did agree to make another album with Blur, in particular one pushed through by his former right-hand man, suggests a mellowing on both sides.

Lonesome Street, which opens the album, sounds as if it could have come from Blur’s second album Modern Life is Rubbish: a mêlée of choppy guitars, semi-sarcastic “woo-hoo”s and typically English lyrical details about “the 5.14 to East Grinstead”. It’s the only moment of nostalgia on a record that otherwise reflects the reality of Blur in 2015, not 1995.

New World Towers is an appealingly maudlin reflection of urban dread. “Log in your name and pray,” suggests Albarn to an office worker keeping to his nine-to-five in the face of impending doom. Albarn employs the croaky estuary tones of old on Go Out, but his words about “too many western men, top button left undone” are less from a cheeky young lad on the cusp of a great adventure, more from a grumpy old man looking around at the modern age and not liking what he sees.

During a press conference in February, held at a Chinese restaurant on Gerrard Street in Soho, Albarn talked about how Hong Kong inspired The Magic Whip. There is a sense to it of being adrift in an alienating world, particularly on Thought I Was a Spaceman, the most sophisticated song on the album and the one that best captures Hong Kong’s Blade Runner-like atmosphere of futuristic chaos. It has a synthetic beat, a Chinese-style xylophone melody, panoramic strings and Albarn singing in heartfelt tones about feeling lost and alone. It’s a layered expression of a state of mind, and a reminder of the complexities of which pop music is capable.

Then there is Pyongyang. In 2013 Albarn took a trip to North Korea, a place he has described as “a magical kingdom, in the sense that everybody’s under a spell”. His song about the world’s most secretive country is suitably dreamlike, with words on how “the pink light that bathes the great leaders is fading” set against disembodied voices and a wheezing, harmonium-like drone. It’s an impressionistic insight into a closed world.

Albarn is a difficult character, a restless soul not given to making life easy for himself or others, and the four members lead very different lives — the website for Kingsley Napley notes that criminal litigation solicitor David Rowntree counts among his past achievements “a long career with the band Blur” and plugs his radio show on XFM. Given this, a future as a Rolling Stones-like heritage act seems unlikely.

This does feel like the final Blur album, even if more reunion concerts do happen. If so, it’s a fitting end: a dignified response to middle life from the band that best captured what it was to be young in Nineties Britain.
(Parlophone, out Monday)

Levitz
Posts: 69
Joined: 21 Mar 2015, 20:22

Re: The Magic Whip Reviews

Post by Levitz » 25 Apr 2015, 06:58


wuw
Posts: 6
Joined: 31 Mar 2015, 01:03

Re: The Magic Whip Reviews

Post by wuw » 25 Apr 2015, 10:18

Image
A 5/5 (finally!) from Oltner Tagblatt, a Swiss paper.

User avatar
TripleJay97
Posts: 7048
Joined: 11 Nov 2011, 17:42
Location: Royston Vasey

Re: The Magic Whip Reviews

Post by TripleJay97 » 25 Apr 2015, 10:23

Our third 5 :)
Image

Pasta
Posts: 693
Joined: 08 Jun 2014, 12:11

Re: The Magic Whip Reviews

Post by Pasta » 25 Apr 2015, 14:21

Sledge Hammer wrote:Daily Mirror gave it 3 stars and referenced Alex been friends with Cameron...massive left wing paper so pretty sad to mention that, nothing to do with the music...
Did they not forget dave standing for labour???

User avatar
munch
Posts: 1208
Joined: 24 Sep 2014, 12:14

Re: The Magic Whip Reviews

Post by munch » 25 Apr 2015, 16:14

Pasta wrote:
Sledge Hammer wrote:Daily Mirror gave it 3 stars and referenced Alex been friends with Cameron...massive left wing paper so pretty sad to mention that, nothing to do with the music...
Did they not forget dave standing for labour???
haha everyone seems to forget
Mr ( ͡° ͜- ͡°) K
https://www.facebook.com/Blur2Australia
My animated I Broadcast submission https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nHRqhEDr70M
Image
I'm country sad
I'm a ballad man

Sean
Posts: 667
Joined: 23 Mar 2015, 00:24

Re: The Magic Whip Reviews

Post by Sean » 25 Apr 2015, 18:44

Another 4 star. This guy is a good freelancer, writes for NME, Guardian and others.

http://www.virginmedia.com/music/review ... c-whip.php" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

The Magic Whip
Blur
Released: 27 April 2015

****

And their first with guitarist Graham Coxon since 1999, if we don't count his final cameo on Think Tank's Battery In Your Leg. It's kind of felt like it's been coming ever since the four members reconvened for gigs in 2009, but a measly clutch of tracks in the interim dulled that optimism. Maybe Blur were never going to give us another album.

The creative impetus resolved those fears. When the Tokyo Rocks festival – at which Blur were scheduled to play – was cancelled in 2013, idle studio noodlings in Hong Kong became the basis for a fully fledged return. Ideas that had been kicking around suddenly began to coalesce and 18 months later Damon Albarn gave Coxon and producer Stephen Street the nod to do something with them. He liked what they came back with.

And so will everyone else, Blur fans certainly. The Magic Whip is very Blur – from the petulant, wonky Go Out to the murmuring, drifting melancholy of My Terracotta Heart – in a way that Albarn or Coxon solo records just aren't. It's interesting to hear the singer abandon the wounded introspection of last year's Everyday Robots for the la-la-la-ing, ramshackle Ong Ong, or the guitarist shelving his rough punky excursions for the hazy tropicalia groove of Ghost Ship. The Magic Whip really highlights the easy interplay of the band, complementing one another's strengths.

In an unlikely twist for Blur, though, there doesn't seem to be a hit, save perhaps the choppy, deliriously riffing I Broadcast. Its best track is probably the understated epic Thought I Was A Spaceman, with Sad Damon ("Digging out my heart/In some distant sand dunes") lost in Apollo chat, NASA bleeps and tremolo sweeps, picking over unnamed regrets. But the big smashes are beside the point when it's sweet enough to have them back at all.

Matthew Horton
Twitter: @shornKOOMINS

Levitz
Posts: 69
Joined: 21 Mar 2015, 20:22

Re: The Magic Whip Reviews

Post by Levitz » 25 Apr 2015, 21:39

Album of the Week in the Sunday Times, no score but final line 'They’ve only gone and made a masterpiece'

http://www.thesundaytimes.co.uk/sto/cul ... 547046.ece

ALBUM OF THE WEEK
BLUR
The Magic Whip
Parlophone
Much of the focus on Blur’s first album in the full line-up since 1999 has been on how it came to be made. Fair enough — the very Blurry saga is a fascinating one. But you can’t review a story (well, not here, at any rate), so we’re left with The Magic Whip. Any careful-what-you-wish-for fears are dispelled the second Lonesome Street hares out of the traps, its various sonic and lyrical tics encapsulating pretty much the entire Blur catalogue. Damon Albarn’s preoccupation with digital disconnectedness, inertia and ennui — so hauntingly documented on last year’s Everyday Robots — is revisited on tracks such as There Are Too Many of Us, New World Towers and the trancey Thought I Was a Spaceman, while his relationship with Graham Coxon is addressed — tenderly but honestly — on the dubby My Terracotta Heart. The guitarist’s restless genius is evident everywhere, while messrs James and Rowntree remind us that they are about so much more than cheese and legal aid. So, yes, a customarily tortured gestation and birth. The results? They’ve only gone and made a masterpiece. DC

Lt Pinkerton
Posts: 1373
Joined: 23 Feb 2015, 10:27

Re: The Magic Whip Reviews

Post by Lt Pinkerton » 25 Apr 2015, 21:41

So we have just one lackluster review, approximately 567 4 stars and a couple of 5/5s, huh? Not bad at all. Even 13 got some shit when it was released.

User avatar
Rubi
Posts: 2007
Joined: 20 Nov 2014, 20:54
Location: Room on fire

Re: The Magic Whip Reviews

Post by Rubi » 25 Apr 2015, 21:46

Well, it's a great fucking album, so no wonder it's getting a shitload of praise.

Lt Pinkerton
Posts: 1373
Joined: 23 Feb 2015, 10:27

Re: The Magic Whip Reviews

Post by Lt Pinkerton » 25 Apr 2015, 22:10

Rubi wrote:Well, it's a great fucking album, so no wonder it's getting a shitload of praise.
Yep, but we all know how music journalism works and Blur aren't hip enough in some environments, so it's still a bit surprising for me that it's doing so well. I think most of the reviews left (Pitchfork, etc) will settle for the 4/5 mark -which is 7,5 in pitchforkian.

User avatar
101reykjavik
Posts: 5303
Joined: 08 Sep 2014, 20:26
Location: Beautiful Somerset

Re: The Magic Whip Reviews

Post by 101reykjavik » 25 Apr 2015, 23:05

Well, 'masterpiece' will do me just fine. :D It is gratifying to see so much acclaim coming this album's way. I know we all unsurpisingly love it here, (give or take a few members) but I like to think all these reviews go a long way to prove we're not just being a load of fan boys and girls. This really is an astonishingly good record and deserves the praise.

Album of the year contender for music mags and press? Very early days, I know.
Image

tender
Posts: 272
Joined: 20 Sep 2014, 16:40

Re: The Magic Whip Reviews

Post by tender » 26 Apr 2015, 10:17

The Observer 4 stars out of 5 http://gu.com/p/47m6g/stw" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

In a recent interview, Blur guitarist Graham Coxon described the impromptu recording sessions in 2013 that led to The Magic Whip, Blur’s first album as a foursome in 16 years. The Hong Kong facility was cramped; the instruments ranged from rudimentary to esoteric; the band were often physically touching. “We were making sounds that were not particularly Blur sounds in this very un-Blur city in a very un-Blur studio,” explained Coxon, whose mission it became to transform these sketches into an album.



From these unpromising jams has come a strange, accidental Blur set: a late-life baby, the kind with grownup siblings. The Magic Whip obviously shares genes with all previous Blur endeavours, but it cannot avoid being a very different sort of creature to its predecessors.

Its players now include a criminal lawyer and a cheesemonger, an opera writer and a confessional post-punk, no longer engaged in the Britpop wars or the sort of internecine squabbles that excommunicated Coxon from Think Tank, Blur’s last album (2003). Under their bridge flows a whole Yangtze of bygones and side projects. Most significantly of all, The Magic Whip (a complex notion, embodying both treat and threat, if the lyrics of the faintly sinister Ice Cream Man are anything to go by) was not hatched as some grand reunification statement, but pieced together by Coxon and Blur’s heyday producer Stephen Street in fits and starts in 2014. The band only managed to convene in Hong Kong because of a series of cancelled tour dates; Damon Albarn returned there in December 2014 to conceptualise lyrics, once this eighth album looked like a goer.

At its best, The Magic Whip has all the charm of Blur at their most mysterious, and little of the laddish triumphalism of Blur in headline slot mode. Fans craving the latter may well scratch their heads at songs such as Ghost Ship, a loose, reggae-ish funk that stars James’s bassline, an uncharacteristically laid-back Coxon, and the whistle of an emptying balloon.


‘Reggae-ish funk’: Ghost Ship.
Two tracks go out of their way to reassure the faithful. The satisfying opener, Lonesome Street, packs a snappy Coxon riff, Albarn’s staccato phrasing and some Beatle-y larks: you can almost see Alex James waving his fringe around as his bass plonks along. Go Out prances and pouts, all knees, elbows and the kind of dissonance that, in Blur money, is always associated with Coxon. Albarn undersings elegantly, tossing off lines with insouciance, where in the 90s he used to sneer them.


By contrast, a few songs later, the extraordinary Thought I Was a Spaceman is an entirely different proposition – one that relocates David Bowie to the South Seas, adding grandeur by degrees. At first, it sounds like Albarn solo; but the band turn themselves up by increments, transforming an appealing existentialist ditty about an everyday robot into a rattling, buzzing thing of beauty, awash with Mellotron and string stabs.


If there is a theme on this disparate record, it’s dislocation. The chippy ennui that has cemented Blur firmly into the canon of dissenting British bands is no longer parochial, but global. “Taking off again/ The 5.14 to East Grinstead,” sings Albarn, but there is proportionally more “eight o’clock Kowloon emptiness” to The Magic Whip. There Are Too Many of Us is a string-laden march about tightly packed lives that reflects Singapore as well as it does Streatham. Dystopian tunes brought on by sprawling neon cities are hardly a new thing in pop. But at best, this incarnation of Blur have a knack for making this bewildering world seem small, and our troubles universal.
Last edited by tender on 26 Apr 2015, 11:32, edited 1 time in total.

User avatar
Rubi
Posts: 2007
Joined: 20 Nov 2014, 20:54
Location: Room on fire

Re: The Magic Whip Reviews

Post by Rubi » 26 Apr 2015, 10:24

101reykjavik wrote:Well, 'masterpiece' will do me just fine. :D It is gratifying to see so much acclaim coming this album's way. I know we all unsurpisingly love it here, (give or take a few members) but I like to think all these reviews go a long way to prove we're not just being a load of fan boys and girls. This really is an astonishingly good record and deserves the praise.

Album of the year contender for music mags and press? Very early days, I know.
I don't think we are unconditionally loving it simply because it's Blur. I'd have no problem saying it's a not a very good album if that was the case. Damon is my idol, but Everyday Robots for me was a so-so record. However, The Magic Whip is absolutely brilliant, and the fact that everyone including the press is praising it is simply proof of that fact.

User avatar
maria
Posts: 79
Joined: 08 Sep 2014, 09:42

Re: The Magic Whip Reviews

Post by maria » 26 Apr 2015, 16:02

Positive reviews from the portuguese press too (just wish they would do a little more research to get all their facts right :roll: )
Blitz - 4/5: https://imagizer.imageshack.us/v2/832x6 ... aIFQFO.jpg
Público - 4/5: http://www.publico.pt/culturaipsilon/no ... te-1693047
Diário de Notícias - positive: http://www.pressreader.com/portugal/dia ... 7/TextView
Image

Post Reply