Comebacks have a tendency to disappoint. When Blur reformed to play a series of gigs in 2008, their return was met with open arms and their shows were celebratory occasions that nodded to their Britpop background, but weren't encumbered by their history. A new album, though? That's another story. If Blur were the type of band to feel 'pressure' about a comeback, 'The Magic Whip' might have turned out very differently. As it happens, their first record in 13 years is a solid affair that occasionally tips over into exhilaration.
In a way, it's a clear continuation of the brooding experimentation of 2002's 'Think Tank'; but this time, they've got guitarist Graham Coxon back on board to fill in the gaps, and his propensity for peculiarity is audible on the likes of 'Go Out' and reverb-laden closer 'Mirrorball'.
Elsewhere, songs like the reflective 'My Terracotta Heart' and 'Thought I Was a Spaceman' sound more informed by Damon Albarn's solo record 'Everyday Robots', their low-key, melancholic vibes infused with a sense of alienation. The stately march of the fatalistic 'There Are Too Many of Us' catches you unaware, while the murmured vocals and slow-burning mystical twang of 'Pyongyang' could easily pass for a Bowie song.
As always, however, Blur are at their best when they're playing forthright indie-pop music. The jangly strut of 'Lonesome Street' is impossibly infectious, while the quirky 'I Broadcast' and 'Ghost Ship' touch upon old school Blur tunes, flooded with melody and catchy choruses.
It's not always essential listening, but the difference this time around is that Blur's self-confident swagger has already been proven; they're not seeking approval or trying to impress. This is Blur, 27 years deep into their career – like 'em or lump 'em. Luckily for us, there's more here to like than there is to lump.