The Magic Whip

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The Magic Whip
Blur MagicWhip 2015.jpg
Studio album by Blur
Released 27 April 2015 (2015-04-27)
Recorded May 2013, November 2014 – January 2015
Studio
  • Avon Studios, Hong Kong
  • Studio 13, London
Genre
Length 51:42
Label
Producer
Blur chronology
Parklive
(2012)Parklive2012
The Magic Whip
(2015)
Singles from The Magic Whip
  1. "Go Out"
    Released: 19 February 2015
  2. "There Are Too Many of Us"
    Released: 20 March 2015
  3. "Lonesome Street"
    Released: 2 April 2015
  4. "Ong Ong"
    Released: 3 June 2015
  5. "I Broadcast"
    Released: 8 September 2015

The Magic Whip is the eighth studio album by English rock band Blur. It was recorded in Hong Kong and London, and released by Parlophone on 27 April 2015 and Warner Bros. Records on 28 April 2015. It is the band's first studio album since Think Tank (2003), marking the longest gap between studio albums in Blur's career.[2]

The album received acclaim from music critics. It debuted at number one the UK Albums Chart, marking Blur's sixth UK number-one album. It has been certified Gold by the British Phonographic Industry (BPI) for sales of over 100,000 copies. Also, it is the first album by the band in North America under Warner Bros., after Blur were transferred from Virgin Records in 2013, following the purchase of EMI and its assets by the Universal Music Group in 2012.

Background[edit]

In May 2013, Blur were set to play Japan's Tokyo Rocks Music festival. However, the entire festival was cancelled for unknown reasons, leaving the band stranded in Hong Kong for an extra five days. In an attempt to distract themselves, they worked on new material in Avon Studios, as announced by lead singer Damon Albarn during the gig at AsiaWorld–Expo, Chek Lap Kok. Albarn later stated he was unsure whether the resulting music would ever be released. In July 2014, he commented, "There are about 15 songs...the annoying thing is, if I'd been able to write the lyrics there and then about being there, we'd have finished the record. But sometimes, if you can't do it all at once, it dissipates really and I don't know what I'd sing about now with that record. There's some great tunes on there, but it may just be one of those records that never comes out."[3]

In November 2014, Graham Coxon started to work further on the recordings with producer Stephen Street, while Albarn was touring his solo album, Everyday Robots (2014). Coxon commented "I kept thinking about the recordings we had made in Hong Kong and remembering how good it felt. I wouldn't have forgiven myself if I hadn't had another look".[2] Coxon would secretly invite James and Rowntree to further recording sessions to build upon the material. Once nearing completion, Coxon presented the music to Albarn to see if it was worthy of an album. On the way back from his tour of Australia in December, Albarn stopped in Hong Kong once more for lyrical inspiration. Vocals were completed towards the end of January 2015 and the album's mastering was finished on 18 February 2015.[4]

Artwork and title[edit]

The album cover artwork features the Chinese words of 模糊 魔鞭 (which literally mean blurry and magic whip, respectively) in neon-lit fashion. Art director Tony Hung, who also created the lyric video for "Go Out", the first track to be released from the album, met with frontman Damon Albarn in early 2015 to discuss the album artwork and was shown photos and ephemera from the singer's travels in Hong Kong. Albarn also explained how the album came into being and his thoughts around it. "The album title, The Magic Whip [Albarn] explained, was multifaceted," says Hung. "An ice cream in the UK, a firework in China and a 'whip' in a political sense. These extremes would reflect the different textures, breadth and depth of the album." Hung says that the band wanted a cover that touched on those themes and that also had a "rawer feel" to give a sense of how the record came together in Hong Kong (the band recorded quickly, in a small studio in the city).[5]

Promotion[edit]

The video for "Go Out" was uploaded to YouTube on 19 February 2015. Videos for "There Are Too Many of Us", "Lonesome Street", "Ong Ong", and "I Broadcast" followed on 20 March, 2 April, 3 June, and 8 September 2015, respectively.[6][7][8][9][10] "Ong Ong", along with "My Terracotta Heart" and "I Broadcast" were previously made available shortly before the album's release as promotional singles, and their official audios were uploaded to YouTube on 23 April 18 and 21 April 2015, respectively.[11][12] "Y'all Doomed", the bonus track on the Japanese edition, was released as a 7" single on 27 April 2015.[13] "Ghost Ship", alongside a re-release of "I Broadcast", were later released as promotional singles on 23 October 2015.[14][15]

Critical reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Aggregate scores
SourceRating
Metacritic81/100[16]
Review scores
SourceRating
AllMusic4/5 stars[17]
The A.V. ClubB−[18]
Chicago Tribune3.5/4 stars[19]
The Daily Telegraph5/5 stars[20]
The Guardian4/5 stars[21]
NME8/10[22]
Pitchfork7.0/10[23]
Q4/5 stars[24]
Rolling Stone4/5 stars[25]
Spin8/10[26]

At Metacritic, which assigns a normalised rating out of 100 to reviews from critics, the album received an average score of 81, indicating "universal acclaim," based on 35 reviews.[16]

DIY magazine critic Stephen Ackroyd stated: "Their magic remains as strong as ever."[27] Helen Brown of The Telegraph stated that the album "turns out to be a triumphant comeback," and noted that "it retains the band's core identity while allowing ideas they'd fermented separately over the past decade to infuse their sound with mature and peculiar new flavour combinations."[20] Andy Gill of The Independent gave the album a positive review, calling it "a beautiful comeback."[28] Spin writer Andrew Unterberger gave the album an 8/10 rating and said, "Magic Whip is a fun album, nearly as much as any Gorillaz LPs," adding, "Magic Whip finds enough majesty and intrigue in the band's more meditative days to remain worthy company to any of the band's classic LPs."[29] Writing for the Rolling Stone magazine and giving the album four-out-of-five stars, David Fricke called the album "A dark, seductive set that cements a legacy", stating that "Blur have returned with inspiration to spare."[25]

Accolades[edit]

Publication Accolade Year Rank
NME NME's Albums of the Year 2015 2015
Stereogum The 50 Best Albums of 2015 2015
Rolling Stone 50 Best Albums of 2015 2015

Track listing[edit]

All tracks written by Damon Albarn, Graham Coxon, Alex James and Dave Rowntree.

No.TitleLength
1."Lonesome Street"4:23
2."New World Towers"4:03
3."Go Out"4:41
4."Ice Cream Man"3:25
5."Thought I Was a Spaceman"6:16
6."I Broadcast"2:51
7."My Terracotta Heart"4:05
8."There Are Too Many of Us"4:25
9."Ghost Ship"4:59
10."Pyongyang"5:47
11."Ong Ong"3:08
12."Mirrorball"3:39
Total length:51:42
Japanese bonus track[33]
No.TitleLength
13."Y'all Doomed"3:57
Total length:55:39

Personnel[edit]

Blur
  • Damon Albarn – vocals, keyboards, synthesizers, iPad, acoustic guitar
  • Graham Coxon – electric guitar, backing vocals, co-lead vocals on "Lonesome Street", "Thought I Was a Spaceman", and "Y'all Doomed"
  • Alex James – bass guitar
  • Dave Rowntree – drums, percussion, backing vocals
Additional personnel
  • Stephen Street – production, programming, percussion, drum machine, "saxophones" (synthesizers) on "Ghost Ship"
  • James Dring – drum machine, drum programming
  • Demon Strings – orchestration

Charts and certifications[edit]

References[edit]

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  2. ^ a b Thorpe, Vanessa (1 March 2015). "Graham Coxon on the Blur reunion: 'Pop doesn't have to be a fleeting thing'". The Guardian. Retrieved 11 May 2015. 
  3. ^ "Damon Albarn Interview – NME (29–07–14)". NME. 29 July 2014. Retrieved 21 April 2015. 
  4. ^ "Blur Interview – BBC Radio 6 Music, Steve Lamacq (19-02-2015)". YouTube. 19 February 2015. Retrieved 19 February 2015. 
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  6. ^ Krep, Daniel (20 March 2015). "Hear Blur's Majestic New Doom-and-Gloom Song "There Are Too Many of Us"". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 15 May 2015. 
  7. ^ Payne, Chris (2 April 2015). "Join a Magic Line Dancing Crew For Blur's New 'Lonesome Street' Video". Billboard. Retrieved 15 May 2015. 
  8. ^ Vincent, Alice. "Watch Blur's new video: Go Out". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 15 May 2015. 
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  10. ^ Kreps, Daniel. "Watch Blur Go 8-Bit in Zany "Ong Ong" Video". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 10 October 2015. 
  11. ^ Geslani, Michelle (18 April 2015). "Blur shares new song 'My Terracotta Heart'". Consequence of Sound. Retrieved 15 May 2015. 
  12. ^ Britton, Luke Morgan (20 April 2015). "Blur premiere new track 'Ong Ong' – listen". NME. Retrieved 15 May 2015. 
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External links[edit]