#21. Blur: The Magic Whip

It’s always a relief when a classic band’s reunion album is worth the wait. That happened several time in 2015: first with D’Angelo, then with Sleater-Kinney, and then with Blur. Long after the dust settled from their Britpop war with Oasis, Blur has returned from a twelve-year hiatus with The Magic Whip, an album that’s as much a return to their classic sound as it is a continuation of frontman Damon Albarn’s illustrious solo career.

The album’s title is drawn from both a brand of ice cream in the UK and a brand of firecracker in China. It’s one of many noticeable influences that Chinese culture has had on the English band (Blur recorded The Magic Whip in Hong Kong). Drawing inspiration from other cultures is nothing new to Blur’s frontman Damon Albarn. Between his side project Gorillaz, his solo music, and a cultural mashup opera he wrote titled Monkey: Journey to the West, his music regularly explores influences outside of just the UK and the western hemisphere. But even though the album is as culturally explorative as some of Albarn’s personal projects—“My Terracotta Heart” would fit seamlessly onto his solo album Everyday Robots—it ultimately stays true to Blur’s traditional Britpop sound.

The album kicks off with “Lonesome Street,” which harkens back to the heyday of Blur with energetic electric guitar strumming. It’s refreshing to hear Albarn sing an album full of rock tunes again. His voice definitely fits the sulking electronics of Everyday Robots and the genre melting pot of Gorillaz, but his heavily accented post-punk drawl is without a doubt most effective when paired with electric guitars and strident drums.

The album might not generate droves of new classics, even though tracks like “Lonesome Street,” “Go Out,” and “Ong Ong” can stand toe-to-toe with the band’s finest works. But as a unit, it’s a triumphant and matured revisiting of the Britpop sound that Blur championed throughout the 1990s. The Magic Whip will satisfy diehard fans, and probably recruit some new devotees.