Thursday, 7 May 2015

Art of the Cover - Blur's "The Magic Whip" (2015)

The kings of Brit Pop are back ,.. yeah, baby, yeah!

Nice cover ... but is it not a rip off of this better one - the wonderful athmospheric neon-tastic cover to the recent excellent Chinese Fountain LP by The Growlers!

Anyway, the utterly charming Albarn and the utterly sober Coxon ... and the other guys ... are back together and it's all happy-clappy in Blur-land.

And, I have to say, it's a mighty fine collection they've concocted here.

The band's kinkily titled, eighth studio album The Magic Whip is their first studio album since Think Tank (2003), marking the longest gap between two studio albums in their career.

Art director Tony Hung 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 he 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)

The album has received nigh universal acclaim from music critics. 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."

The album's odd oriental origin and unexpected genesis arose from a suddenly cancelled Japanese gig.

In May 2013, a reformed 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 5 days. In an attempt to distract themselves, they worked on new material in Avon Studios,

Much later, after the project was in great danger of being discarded, Albarn was inspired to come up with lyrics to match the music on the Hong Kong tapes.

In July 2014, Albarn had said ... "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."

However, in November 2014, Blur decided to work further on the recordings led by Coxon and producer Stephen Street, while Albarn was touring his solo album, Everyday Robots. Coxon presented the revamped music to Damon to see if it was worthy of an album. It definitely was and, on the way back from his tour of Australia in December, Albarn stopped in Hong Kong once more for lyrical inspiration. The words duly came.

Vocals were completed towards the end of January 2015 and the album's mastering was finished a couple of weeks later


1. "Lonesome Street"   4:23
2. "New World Towers"   4:02
3. "Go Out"   4:40
4. "Ice Cream Man"   3:23
5. "Thought I Was a Spaceman"   6:16
6. "I Broadcast"   2:52
7. "My Terracotta Heart"   4:05
8. "There Are Too Many of Us"   4:26
9. "Ghost Ship"   4:59
10. "Pyongyang"   5:38
11. "Ong Ong"   3:06
12. "Mirrorball"   3:37

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