With the release of their first new album in 12 years all but a week from being released, we thought that the 3 official tracks that they leaked from the record would be it until the 27th of April. Oh how wrong we were.
I’m talking about Blur, the iconic British alternative rock band, who have just announced they’ll be revisiting Australia for the first time since 1997 as headliners for Splendour in the Grass, have released another official audio track for the song “My Terracotta Heart”, and well, it’s not too bad.
Following the release of the upbeat, pop hook filled “Go Out”, the typically whingey and much reviled “There Are Too Many Of Us” and the britpop infused “Lonesome Street”, the fourth and perhaps this time final official release before the drop date is, to quote Albarn “A breath of fresh air”.
With an opening drum beat which harkens back to the crunching and oriental and african inspired percussion used on their 2003 release Think Tank, it’s clear that the four piece has again evolved since their reformation. The smooth and mellow vocal tone that Damon uses is almost completely typical of him today, a very similar sound was used in his debut solo album Everyday Robots. However where the vocals are sound, the entrance of a gloriously and exquisitely arpeggiated guitar refrain from returning guitarist Coxon adds another level of melancholy to the track. Alex James continues to impress with his funk inspired bass work, showing that none of the unrecognised talent he has has been lost. The verses are very so-so, you could take almost any of Albarn’s work from the past decade and chop and change verses and stick it into this song. However one thing that differentiates the verses is the slightly syncopated electric piano and strings which while more than mildly discomforting show us that the experimental side of the band has continued to blossom.
Then we hit the chorus, and what a beautifully constructed chorus it is. A simple but gorgeously memorable melody, perfectly atmospheric guitar work and an inspired and perfectly fitted bass line lift the song to a level you probably weren’t expecting after the first 30 seconds. It only continues, with some perfectly poignant sound bites of sirens are inserted, typically socially anal like Damon. However unlike a lot of blur’s work, which is more socially conscious and directly relatable, “My Terracotta Heart” is a very personal song. This level of personal lyricism is something that is almost a new territory for the band, only a couple of times prior has a song ever seemed so directly related to one of the band members. Even when they wrote songs about themselves it never seemed very convincing, but the feeling behind everything in this track is another great sign that the four have experienced a lot since they broke up, and it’s all coming back.
And then there’s Coxon’s solo, or perhaps anti-solo, towards the end of the track. It’s hauntingly beautiful, almost just as they took it straight from what should have appeared on Think Tank, but maybe the wait was worth it. It seems the band is more in tune with each other, the perfectly crafted lyrics which are deeply touching, the calories rhythm section that seem to know precisely what each other is doing, and then the outdo, which is near perfect, but to me the continuing of the choir like harmonising and the slight arpeggiated guitar seems very gimmick-y and unnecessary.
It is funny though how a song that seems so dull and boring at first listen can get so easily stuck in your head like no-ones business, and I think that every one of the tracks I’ve listened to from The Magic Whip so far has been just like that. I listened to it and sighed a resounding “Meh”, until I wake up the next morning and the damned thing can’t leave my head. They’re perfectly crafted alternative rock tracks, and boy if the rest of the album is as ridiculously catchy after 18 hours as these 4 tracks are then lord help us all.
But that would be good, an interesting rock album would be nice once in a while (I’m looking at you Arctic Monkeys)