Recorded in Hong Kong over five days after a gig in Japan fell through two years ago, Blur’s first album as a four-piece band in 16 years is steeped in references to our city. There are mentions of Kowloon, Po Lin, Lantau, being “stuck in the underground”, and even Ocean Park.
The Magic Whip has an urban vibe that only Hong Kong can inspire. It bustles with energy in throwaway pop songs like Ong Ong, hints at loneliness with Ghost Ship, and gets baffling with New World Towers and There Are Too Many of Us.
You can tell that the guys are delighted to be reconciled. Blur just wasn’t Blur without the magnetic presence of guitarist Graham Coxon who left in 2002. Because they’ve taken such separate paths in life (bassist Alex James became a columnist and cheesemaker; drummer Dave Rowntree a lawyer), their chemistry is fresh and sizzling, and this album is them at their creative best. “It’s nothing to be ashamed of/Taking off again,” sings Damon Albarn in the breezy Lonesome Street. Their enthusiasm is infectious.
Listening to the quirky mix of electronic and world music in Thought I Was a Spaceman and Ice Cream Man, you get why Coxon describes the album as “sci-fi folk”. But it also contains melancholic ballads, none so sad as the agonising My Terracotta Heart.
Can’t wait ’til they come to perform here in August!