NEW ALBUM: Blur – The Magic Whip

This has certainly been a day to remember! Why? Because for the first time since 2003, Blur will release a new album. The album is called The Magic Whip and was recorded in Hong Kong last year. It’s been well known among Blur fans that the band had recorded in Hong Kong, but everything the band members said up to now suggested the recordings didn’t come to anything. But obviously not, because a new album is here!

A new track from the album, Go Out, is available to listen to now:

This is certainly a huge day for me and other Blur fans. I’ve been a huge fan for as long as I can remember and have wanted a new album since Think Tank came out in 2003. And finally, we have one!

Blur will also be headlining at BST Hyde Park in London, where songs from the new album will make their way into the setlist. This also means a full tour is also possible! The Hyde Park show is on Saturday the 20th June and tickets are available on Friday the 27th February.

The album is out on the 27th April and is available to pre-order NOW.

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REVIEW: Damon Albarn – Everyday Robots

I first heard of Damon Albarn in 1996 when my dad bought Blur’s The Great Escape album which I listened to a lot at the time. Since that album I was hooked on Blur and pretty much every side-project since (Gorillaz, The Ailerons, The Good, The Band & The Queen etc). So when this album was released I was very excited especially after the lack of new material from Blur in recent years.

The opening track does nothing for me whatsoever. The first song from the album to be released, it just doesn’t tickle me the way I expect Damon’s songs to. The second track, Hostiles, is a different story and reminds me a lot of Damon’s writing on The Good, The Bad & The Queen album. It could almost be an unused track from that album. It’s very good and doesn’t feature the awful production the title track does. The reverb effects in particular remind me of that album and Damon’s vocals are very beautiful. Normally every album that Damon does has at least a few songs that make me want to re-listen to it immediately and Hostiles is one of them.

Lonely Press Play is a track we first heard in a stripped down form when Damon played it at the Sundance Film Festival earlier in the year. That was a fantastic performance featuring just acoustic guitar, piano, strings and vocals and the song still sounds great  here but is slightly ruined by the awful production. I don’t really think there’s any need for the bass or even the percussion. That said, it’s still a nice enough song and probably an album highlight for me. It ends by going straight into Mr Tembo, the first properly upbeat song of the album and the medley effect is a nice touch. I’m not sure what to think of this song yet, it doesn’t do much for me sadly. It’s followed by a quick instrumental called Parakeet which is a nice little recording.

The Selfish Giant…where to begin. The intro, in my opinion, just doesn’t go. The piano is gorgeous but that bass isn’t. Simple as that. Too loud in the mix and the piano is too low. However the bass thankfully ends when Damon starts singing, even though a ridiculous electronic beat comes in which (just like the bass) is too high in the mix. The song itself is actually very nice but I can’t help but get distracted by the awful beat and bass. Get rid of them! Unfortunately You & Me suffers from the same awful production. It features some beautiful acoustic guitar and piano but then for some reason a random beat comes in out of nowhere disrupting what was once good.

  1. Everyday Robots
  2. Hostiles
  3. Lonely Press Play
  4. Mr Tembo
  5. Parakeet
  6. The Selfish Giant
  7. You & Me
  8. Hollow Ponds
  9. Seven High
  10. Photographs (You Are Taking Now)
  11. The History Of A Cheating Heart
  12. Heavy Seas Of Love

Guess what? That awful beat returns in Hollow Ponds. I think you’re getting the picture now. It’s awful. Just like the previous two songs, the song itself is actually very nice (even though the years mentioned do get repetitive) but that production is pretty awful. The song though features some nice moments, especially what sounds like a french horn solo which really fits nicely into the mood created by the lovely melody, backing vocals and laid back guitar playing. It’s followed by the second instrumental of the album called Seven High which features some nice piano playing and is a welcome interlude.

Photographs (You Are Taking Now) starts very nicely, that is until the same beat comes in again. Thankfully it’s not as bad as in previous songs, even though is still is FAR to high in the mix. The piano and vocals are gorgeous here. Next up, The History Of A Cheating Heart, is probably the best song on the album in terms of production because it’s simply just an acoustic guitar and Damon singing, along with some strings later on in the song. Very nice indeed. If only this could have been the case for the whole album. Absolutely beautiful.

The final song, Heavy Seas Of Love, is simply awful and the worst song on the album by far. The opening vocals by Brian Eno are out of place from the start and the best thing about this song, sadly, is when it comes to an end 3 minutes and 45 seconds later. A pretty awful end to the album.

Overall my feelings on the album have improved since first hearing that title track a few months ago. The album makes more sense when you listen to it as a whole, or at least it does to me. The songs themselves aren’t that bad, even though it’s probably Damon’s most uneven album in terms of writing quality. You look back at his previous albums (Demon Days, The Good, The Bad & The Queen) and they feature GREAT songwriting. This album does in places, but not all the way through. But what the album really suffers from is the awful production. The beats in certain songs were too high in the mix and arguably didn’t need to be there in the first place. I really think the album would have benefitted with a more simple production, no beats, no bass, and just Damon singing with guitar, piano and string accompaniment. So just like his Sundance performance.

There are a couple of songs I’ll go back and listen to now and then (Hostiles, Lonely Press Play) but it’s not really what I expect from Damon. Like I said at the start of this review, I was really excited when this album was announced. But I can’t help but feel a little disappointed now I’ve heard it.

5/10.

Blur – Under The Westway (New Song – LIVE)

Tonight Blur played a brand new song at the War Child gig in London, and it’s fantastic. Their Record Store single Fools Day was released three years ago but this sounds a lot more natural in comparison. Blur back to their old ways? Take a listen.

Andddd here’s a video:

Rumours have been rampant in the last few weeks regarding the band and new material, with no official confirmation coming from any of the members. But it’s proof right here that Blur will no doubt be releasing something this year. EP? Album? Another Record Store single? We’ll have to wait and see, but I’m hoping it’s a new album.

Blur – Think Tank

It’s been 8 years since Blur released their ‘latest’ album Think Tank. It was their first release to not feature lead guitarist and co-founding member Graham Coxon (apart from the final track ‘Battery In Your Leg’) and it was massively apparent in the song-writing and arrangements. However every Blur album is different and should be judged on it’s own merit and not compared to anything that came before.

The band started recording the album in late 2001 at Albarn’s Studio 13 in London before moving to Marrakech in Morocco, and finally ending in a barn in Devon. There’s definitely a very loose feel throughout the album and the songs are very jam based, relying less on guitar and more on simple background instruments such as acoustic guitars, arabic instruments and string sections. It’s a beautiful album from start to finish with many of the lyrics about Coxon not being a part of the band anymore.

  1. Ambulance
  2. Out Of Time
  3. Crazy Beat
  4. Good Song
  5. On The Way To The Club
  6. Brothers and Sisters
  7. Caravan
  8. We’ve Got A File On You
  9. Moroccan Peoples Revolutionary Bowls Club
  10. Sweet Song
  11. Jets
  12. Gene By Gene
  13. Battery In Your Leg

Personally, I can’t fault this album as I love every track. ‘Battery In Your Leg’ is one of the most beautiful and sad songs that Blur ever wrote and the only track on the album that Coxon featured on. The song features Albarn on piano and some of the most spectacular guitar sounds that you will ever hear on a recording. Coxon is a master of the guitar and it seems that he can get any sound out of it, and they’re all there in this track. He sounds like an aeroplane taking off and the guitar solo with a large amount of reverb is so haunting it’s unbelievable.

‘Ambulance’, ‘Good Song’ and ‘Sweet Song’ feature Albarn at his lyrical best. ‘Sweet Song’ is another favourite of mine and again features Albarn on piano with an acoustic guitar and simple percussion and backing vocals behind him. The lyric ‘I hope I see the good in you come back again, I just believed in you’ brings a tear to the eye as he’s singing about his friend Coxon not being in the band anymore. ‘Good Song’ is a simple acoustic guitar based track, and again features stunning lyrics. Other tracks such as ‘We’ve Got A File On You’ and ‘Brothers and Sisters’ bring out a more attacking Blur with feisty guitar parts and lyrics.

Two tracks were produced by Fatboy Slim and this is rumoured to be one of the reasons why Coxon didn’t want any part of the album. These songs are ‘Crazy Beat’ and ‘Gene by Gene’ and they definitely could have been a lot better with a different producer. Fatboy Slim is good doing his own thing, but Blur are a much bigger animal and he didn’t do the songs justice at all as they feature electronic sampling which just isn’t Blur at all. The songs are good, but the two weakest on the album.

There is pregap hidden track on Think Tank called ‘Me, White Noise’ and you can only listen to it be rewinding the album BEFORE the first track. A genius way to hide a song. It features Phil Daniels on vocals (Parklife) and is one of the only Blur song to feature swearing. Apparently it was written and recorded in a drunken haze in Devon. It’s so different to anything Blur have ever done, but it’s fantastic.

The Think Tank b-sides are also worth listening to. They include three more tracks that Coxon featured on which are ‘The Outsider’, ‘Morricone’ and the stunning ‘Some Glad Morning’ which I think should have been an album track. The other b-sides are ‘Don’t Be’, ‘Money Makes Me Crazy’, ‘Tune 2’, ‘Colours’ and an alternate version of ‘Me, White Noise’ with Albarn on vocals. There were a vast quantity of songs recorded in the sessions for the album which apparently numbered into the 40’s. A pity less than half have been released.

Some say Think Tank is more of a Gorillaz album than a Blur album due to Albarn being more in control of the whole process than on any of their previous records. But it’s definitely a Blur album, you can just hear it. I was lucky enough to see Blur play reunion shows in 2009 when Coxon came back to the band, and they even played ‘Battery In Your Leg’ at one of them. But just the once. It was fantastic. However if they ever play live again I highly doubt any of the tracks on Think Tank will be included in sets. Blur fans see it as a very dark period in the bands history, as do the band themselves. But it’s a great album if you put everything aside and I thoroughly recommend it.