Fog covered Neon or Blur – The Magic Whip

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Blur had one of the most anti-climatic breakups in recent history. I’m not even sure it really was a break-up… more a trial separation between the lead guitarist (Graham Coxon) and vocalist (Damon Albarn). Coxon may not have been on the last Blur record, but neither was my attention. Think Tank to me is kind of what the Hindu Love Gods were to REM – a side project with three quarters of a band. I mean it was interesting as an exploration of a different style, but it wasn’t really Blur.

So the real gift to gift to music fans wasn’t the reunion of Blur but rather the fact that they started to record again as a “full band.” Spurred on by years of gigs here and there, we get The Magic Whip, which is more than a return to form, but not quite the monumental achievement die-hard fans were looking for. Let’s face facts, the bar is set very high and fans want something they can point to and say “see – they’re still the greatest!”

That doesn’t mean this isn’t a “really damn fine” record, because it is. All the elements that put them on top of the Brit-pop Mountain are still there, but perhaps their new relaxed attitude has taken them to those ‘shoegaze’ roots where a good riff is meant to be taken for a rather long joyride. At very least that is how the record opens up as “Lonesome Street” slips into the subconscious as a wry testament of urban existence. It’s all sarcastic and poppy with a sense of foreboding that plays out as the needle continues to spin. That of course is Blur’s general modus operandi, pop-rock/brit-pop sounds set to observational lyrics and discourse about dreary times and places. All the neon coloured streets of their Asian inspired surroundings can’t hide the descending British fog. Even a song titled “Ice Cream Man” comes off with malaise and desolation. It isn’t until late in the album that some feelings of hope brighten the skies with Coxon’s best jangly guitar work on “Ong Ong.” Still, that is more a respite in an otherwise dark venture.

The Magic Whip is not an easy listen filled with hum along songs and a sing along chorus; instead it is an exploration in the contradictions of a seedy city living with no hope emanating from the bright coloured neon. If you were looking for the Blur of the 1990’s, The Magic Whip isn’t it; they’ve grown older, wiser and far more jaded to be that band ever again. What you have now is a Blur that can explore the depths of humanity and create an incredibly brilliant story. It might not “RAWK”, but it certainly entertains on a far more daring level than anything they’ve done before. Hence, I’m paying attention now.

You can find The Magic Whip at all your better record retailers and it has a double 180 gram vinyl release for all you people who like your music to spin.

The Nature of Withdrawal or April 26/15 Playlist

“Beneath The City Of Dreams” – Calexico

I missed out on their advance release when I wasn’t paying attention. Still, a great record I’ll probably talk about soon. Maybe even in the next few hours. They just create such great imagery.

“Don’t Wanna Fight” – Alabama Shakes

Reviewed this on Tuesday and it’s just so damn hard to listen to anything else. It is such an awesome piece of work I’m going to need copies for all my relevant locations.

“Bobby Jean” – Bruce Springsteen

Looked back at this earlier in the week, than I got word that a childhood friend had died; suddenly this song started making me cry. Just the idea that we never really say goodbye before people leave us, and we never have a clue what they meant until that door is forever closed.

“Just Like Anyone” – Aimee Mann

Another song about loss, except this one… well it speaks for itself.

“Don’t Look Back In Anger” – Oasis

Not sure what it is about this song, how it works as both depressing and up lifting at the same time. It pulled me out of a darker mood.

“The Rescue Blues (Live)” – Ryan Adams

Officially the most freakin’ expensive vinyl I own after shipping and duty charges. I wish someone would tell me how much duty I’d have to pay before I finish my order, as good as this record is I had to pay an extra frickin’ charge when UPS showed up at my door!

“I Don’t Want Control Of You” – The New Mendicants

Joe Pernice and Norman Blake were playing in town yesterday, unfortunately I wasn’t able to go, so I drowned my sorrows in their music.

“It Don’t Come Easy” – Ringo Starr

Back in university a friend and I wrote a movie script that featured this song in a very prominent position. It would have been hilarious…

“I Don’t Mind” – Sebadoh

Sebadoh just announced a show and the release of a new single… a cover of a famous Canadian single just because they love us. You can order here.

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“Real Wild Child” – Joan Jett & the Blackhearts

The first song off her RSD 15 offering Flashback… which rocks in case you were wondering.

“The Witch” – The Sonics

I’ll cover this song and album soon, but wow, I wish I had known about them when I was a teen.

“Ong Ong” – Blur

Off the new Blur album, I’ll have a review for ya by Tuesday.

“Blue Orchid” – The White Stripes

Posted about this album… holy cash grab, and I’m not talking about the record company or artist. Just look for Get Behind Me Satan on e-bay and you’ll understand.

“Limelight” – Rush

The original song before the Sebadoh cover arrives in May.

“Gold” – John Stewart

Sad storytelling at its AM radio best! Took me a while to find as all I had remembered was a couple lines and that Stevie Nicks was doing background vocals.

“Raspberry Beret” – Hindu Love Gods

You’ll understand why they’re included when I put the Blur review out. Besides, it’s a great cover of a great song.

“Spectacular” – Graham Coxon

Graham Coxon takes a most rockin’ riff and turns it into a sing along anthem.

“Black Nite Crash” – Ride

Think I’ll write about this album next week, so it gave me an excuse to add this song.

“Sophisticated Gentleman” – Gabby Glaser

My son used to ‘rock out’ in the backseat as we drove around and this song was playing. I actually sent a quick message to her about it and she wrote back thanking me. Seems odd getting thanks from the person who provided my son and I with the soundtrack to happy memories! Oh yeah Luscious Jackson got back together and have a kids record out, you should check it out here.

“Happy Kid” – Nada Surf

Just a damn good song by a damn good band! After the past week I needed something that would make me smile?