Blur follow up their triumphant two-night stand at Wembley Stadium with an equally triumphant new album.
Let’s be honest, when a favourite band reunites and records a new album, years after their glory days, the best you can hope for is that they don’t embarrass themselves and soil their legacy.
Well, Blur fans, there is no soiling here.
The Ballad Of Darren is a very good album.
Despite 2015’s The Magic Whip, Damon Albarn has called this new record their ‘first legit album since 13’ and that was released way back in 1999.
Unlike The Magic Whip, The Ballad Of Darren seems to have come to be organically by a four musicians who realize they love to play together.
It sure sounds like it.
Most of the songs were written, initially by Albarn when touring with Gorillaz, and then brought to the band where they each sprinkled a bit of fairy dust earning full writing credits for all four and, more importantly, making this a record that sounds like it was made by a band, rather than four individuals.
Credits should go to producer James Ellis Ford, who has worked with both Albarn and Coxon on non-Blur projects in the recent past. I’m loving the beautifully-arranged vocal parts on songs like Barbaric and Russian Strings. I don’t know how much Ford had to do with them, but, hey, it sounds new and fresh to me.
Speaking of new and fresh, all the members of Blur are well into their 50s with drummer Dave pushing 60, so, as to be expected, there is plenty of looking back, with regrets and lessons hard learned all part of the discourse.
Opening track, The Ballad, is a downbeat, nostalgic love/breakup song.
“I know I’m already breaking when I look into your eye’, Damon sings in the familiar voice we’ve grown to love over the past 30 years or so. And when he warbles, “we travelled around the world together’, he could be singing about an old flame or his own bandmates.
Fortunately, the Blur boys mix it up. St. Charles Square rocks nicely with Graham Coxon’s off-kilter guitar lines sounding like old friends.
Track five is titled, The Everglades (For Leonard)…apparently Damon was inspired by a mural he saw of Leonard Cohen while in Montreal.
“We’re not giving in, we’re not going to shy away” he sings in this acoustic ballad.
And as you make your way through these 10 new songs you realize they are indeed here to stay.
This is a modern, mature rock and roll album made by a band that has been together and apart for over thirty years.
Complacency rarely makes for good music, but comfort, safely and a bond of friendship sure does.
And make no mistake, this is a very good record.
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