The Magic Whip Reviews

Discussion about the band and related projects.

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Levitz
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Re: The Magic Whip Reviews

Post by Levitz » 28 Apr 2015, 14:36

Is this one here yet? Vulture.com


Blur’s The Magic Whip Is a Weird, Lovely Return to Form
By Lindsay Zoladz

http://www.vulture.com/2015/04/album-re ... -whip.html

If you’re a Blur fan, you owe a hearty thank-you to the organizers of Toyko Rocks … a festival that in 2013 flubbed up its management so badly that it was canceled at the last minute. Having already mapped out the Asian leg of their reunion tour around that date, former headliners Blur found themselves in Hong Kong with a couple of sweltering days to kill before their next gig. So — why not? — they decided to spend the unexpected downtime in a studio, jamming to stay limber for their upcoming shows. Rumors flew of a new album; the band shot them down at every turn (“Just because you record 15 ideas doesn’t mean that you’ve got an album,” front man Damon Albarn told NME last year). But while the indefatigable Albarn was busy touring the latest of his endless post-Blur projects (in this case, a solo album called Everyday Robots), guitarist Graham Coxon and longtime producer Stephen Street spent some time tinkering with the Hong Kong tapes, trying to edit the sprawl into something that sounded more like an assemblage of pop songs (albeit some pretty out-there ones). Albarn admitted in a recent press conference that he wasn’t looking to make another Blur record; he thought that last victory lap of a reunion tour had made a clean, sensible ending to the band’s arc. So what Coxon and Street brought back to him complicated the matter. “When they played it for me,” he recalled at the press conference, “I was like” — and here he puts his head in his hands—“Oh, nooo. This is really good.”

Albarn was right to be skeptical of an epilogue tacked haphazardly onto the end of the Blur story — after all, we’re talking about a band that had one of the most prolific, adventurous, and impeccable discographies of the ’90s. Blur began the decade a gang of mop-topped, vacant-eyed Stone Roses wannabes (see: 1991’s Leisure); in the middle, they matured into tart, tuneful pop satirists (1994’s stone-cold Britpop classic Parklife); and by the end of the century, they’d finally conquered the States with one unexpected stadium-jam and a pair of achingly lovely art-rock masterpieces, Blur and 13. Blur’s brilliance was fueled by an artistic restlessness and egos that clashed just hard enough not to destroy each other completely. They often sound like they are members of four different bands, or — often at their very best — native species of four different planets. Drummer Dave Rowntree gives Blur’s sound a grounded muscularity, and bassist Alex James lends a buoyant, hair-flipping pop sensibility, but at its core, Blur is all about the aesthetic tug-of-war between Albarn and Coxon. Cheekily charismatic, Albarn was always seen as the source of the band’s melodicism and pop appeal; the more introverted Coxon was the one pulling them in darker, more experimental directions (he’s usually given credit for the stylistic shift of the 1997 self-titled album). In the liner notes to the band’s boxed set 21, Rowntree summed up the dynamic between his bandmates succinctly: “Graham used to say that he wanted to make an album that nobody would want to listen to. But you can’t do that in a band with Damon.”

What’s interesting about The Magic Whip is how, in a sense, that dynamic has finally reversed. In recent years, and especially on Everyday Robots, Albarn’s melodies have had a tendency to grow a little too dreary and soggy — here, Coxon provides the electrical jolts that zap them back to life. Coxon loves to mess around with texture and tone, and Magic Whip is his aural playground. Take the great, jaunty first single “Go Out” (which sounds like the sneering, tattooed older cousin of “Coffee & TV”), across which he splatters different varieties of distortion like so many colors of paint. The atmospheric, post-rock reverie “Thought I Was a Spaceman” is just as exciting; it reminds me of the proggy, extraterrestrial spirituals on the back half of 13, like “Caramel” and “Battle.” Too many bands tend to sound defanged or diluted on reunion records, so it’s refreshing that The Magic Whip finds Blur indulging — and downright reveling — in many of their weirder tendencies.

Roughly speaking, Albarn’s Blur lyrics tend to come in two varieties: Character sketches like those he perfected on Parklife, and then the wounded, confessional, hyper personal songs that came afterwards. The Magic Whip falls somewhere between those two extremes: Its gaze is focused outward, but there’s something intimate about its observations, as though they’re handwritten travelogues. The lyrics mostly evoke the band’s time in Hong Kong, a city they found stimulating but overcrowded — thus the stately, regal march of “There Are Too Many of Us,” a.k.a. the feel-good population-growth-anxiety jam of the summer. Once deliciously bratty (I mean, the man had a way with a nyah-nyah-nyah), Albarn’s voice has matured into an instrument of wearied but prismatic melancholy, modulated finely enough to convey 50,000 shades of grey. But that also makes his rare bursts of exuberance that much more satisfying, as on “Ong Ong,” The Magic Whip’s one slab of pure pop sunshine. On the sing-along-ready chorus, you can almost hear him struggling to keep it so simple, so sweet: “I wanna be with you.”

The Magic Whip isn’t as immediate as the band’s most inspired work, and I’ll admit on the first few encounters I thought it a bit dull. But over repeated listens, I’ve found it blooms into something immersive, complex, and understatedly lovely — a worthy inclusion in the band’s arc. It’s impossible to say whether it will be the last Blur album, but if it is, I’ll disagree here with Albarn and say it’s an even more satisfying ending than what came before. Up until now, the final Blur record had been 2003’s Think Tank — a fine, adventurous record, but one that many diehards didn’t consider a Blur album at all because Coxon didn’t play on most of it. Blur is a band of distinct chemistry, four irreplaceable elements. In promoting the return-to-form The Magic Whip, it’s been surprising to see how readily they’ll admit that, even at the expense of the previous release. “[Think Tank] wasn’t a Blur record, that was the three of us,” Albarn admitted in a recent interview — joking that maybe, if anything, it was a “LUR record,” or a “BLU” one. Sharp and uncompromising, The Magic Whip is here to deliver some good news: Blur is once again a four-letter word.

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AdvertBreak
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Re: The Magic Whip Reviews

Post by AdvertBreak » 28 Apr 2015, 14:38

I've decided actually the thing which disgusts me the most is that they use the term 'adult contemporary' when referring to MTH and Mirrorball. Adult contemporary? I seriously hate that term, its like shitting on the music from a high storey window, because its just radio soft rock.

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SeverHense
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Re: The Magic Whip Reviews

Post by SeverHense » 28 Apr 2015, 14:42

Levitz wrote:Is this one here yet? Vulture.com


Blur’s The Magic Whip Is a Weird, Lovely Return to Form
By Lindsay Zoladz

http://www.vulture.com/2015/04/album-re ... -whip.html

If you’re a Blur fan, you owe a hearty thank-you to the organizers of Toyko Rocks … a festival that in 2013 flubbed up its management so badly that it was canceled at the last minute. Having already mapped out the Asian leg of their reunion tour around that date, former headliners Blur found themselves in Hong Kong with a couple of sweltering days to kill before their next gig. So — why not? — they decided to spend the unexpected downtime in a studio, jamming to stay limber for their upcoming shows. Rumors flew of a new album; the band shot them down at every turn (“Just because you record 15 ideas doesn’t mean that you’ve got an album,” front man Damon Albarn told NME last year). But while the indefatigable Albarn was busy touring the latest of his endless post-Blur projects (in this case, a solo album called Everyday Robots), guitarist Graham Coxon and longtime producer Stephen Street spent some time tinkering with the Hong Kong tapes, trying to edit the sprawl into something that sounded more like an assemblage of pop songs (albeit some pretty out-there ones). Albarn admitted in a recent press conference that he wasn’t looking to make another Blur record; he thought that last victory lap of a reunion tour had made a clean, sensible ending to the band’s arc. So what Coxon and Street brought back to him complicated the matter. “When they played it for me,” he recalled at the press conference, “I was like” — and here he puts his head in his hands—“Oh, nooo. This is really good.”

Albarn was right to be skeptical of an epilogue tacked haphazardly onto the end of the Blur story — after all, we’re talking about a band that had one of the most prolific, adventurous, and impeccable discographies of the ’90s. Blur began the decade a gang of mop-topped, vacant-eyed Stone Roses wannabes (see: 1991’s Leisure); in the middle, they matured into tart, tuneful pop satirists (1994’s stone-cold Britpop classic Parklife); and by the end of the century, they’d finally conquered the States with one unexpected stadium-jam and a pair of achingly lovely art-rock masterpieces, Blur and 13. Blur’s brilliance was fueled by an artistic restlessness and egos that clashed just hard enough not to destroy each other completely. They often sound like they are members of four different bands, or — often at their very best — native species of four different planets. Drummer Dave Rowntree gives Blur’s sound a grounded muscularity, and bassist Alex James lends a buoyant, hair-flipping pop sensibility, but at its core, Blur is all about the aesthetic tug-of-war between Albarn and Coxon. Cheekily charismatic, Albarn was always seen as the source of the band’s melodicism and pop appeal; the more introverted Coxon was the one pulling them in darker, more experimental directions (he’s usually given credit for the stylistic shift of the 1997 self-titled album). In the liner notes to the band’s boxed set 21, Rowntree summed up the dynamic between his bandmates succinctly: “Graham used to say that he wanted to make an album that nobody would want to listen to. But you can’t do that in a band with Damon.”

What’s interesting about The Magic Whip is how, in a sense, that dynamic has finally reversed. In recent years, and especially on Everyday Robots, Albarn’s melodies have had a tendency to grow a little too dreary and soggy — here, Coxon provides the electrical jolts that zap them back to life. Coxon loves to mess around with texture and tone, and Magic Whip is his aural playground. Take the great, jaunty first single “Go Out” (which sounds like the sneering, tattooed older cousin of “Coffee & TV”), across which he splatters different varieties of distortion like so many colors of paint. The atmospheric, post-rock reverie “Thought I Was a Spaceman” is just as exciting; it reminds me of the proggy, extraterrestrial spirituals on the back half of 13, like “Caramel” and “Battle.” Too many bands tend to sound defanged or diluted on reunion records, so it’s refreshing that The Magic Whip finds Blur indulging — and downright reveling — in many of their weirder tendencies.

Roughly speaking, Albarn’s Blur lyrics tend to come in two varieties: Character sketches like those he perfected on Parklife, and then the wounded, confessional, hyper personal songs that came afterwards. The Magic Whip falls somewhere between those two extremes: Its gaze is focused outward, but there’s something intimate about its observations, as though they’re handwritten travelogues. The lyrics mostly evoke the band’s time in Hong Kong, a city they found stimulating but overcrowded — thus the stately, regal march of “There Are Too Many of Us,” a.k.a. the feel-good population-growth-anxiety jam of the summer. Once deliciously bratty (I mean, the man had a way with a nyah-nyah-nyah), Albarn’s voice has matured into an instrument of wearied but prismatic melancholy, modulated finely enough to convey 50,000 shades of grey. But that also makes his rare bursts of exuberance that much more satisfying, as on “Ong Ong,” The Magic Whip’s one slab of pure pop sunshine. On the sing-along-ready chorus, you can almost hear him struggling to keep it so simple, so sweet: “I wanna be with you.”

The Magic Whip isn’t as immediate as the band’s most inspired work, and I’ll admit on the first few encounters I thought it a bit dull. But over repeated listens, I’ve found it blooms into something immersive, complex, and understatedly lovely — a worthy inclusion in the band’s arc. It’s impossible to say whether it will be the last Blur album, but if it is, I’ll disagree here with Albarn and say it’s an even more satisfying ending than what came before. Up until now, the final Blur record had been 2003’s Think Tank — a fine, adventurous record, but one that many diehards didn’t consider a Blur album at all because Coxon didn’t play on most of it. Blur is a band of distinct chemistry, four irreplaceable elements. In promoting the return-to-form The Magic Whip, it’s been surprising to see how readily they’ll admit that, even at the expense of the previous release. “[Think Tank] wasn’t a Blur record, that was the three of us,” Albarn admitted in a recent interview — joking that maybe, if anything, it was a “LUR record,” or a “BLU” one. Sharp and uncompromising, The Magic Whip is here to deliver some good news: Blur is once again a four-letter word.


Great review as expected. It's a shame she doesn't work for Pitchfork anymore as she would have surely given the album justice.

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He's So High
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Re: The Magic Whip Reviews

Post by He's So High » 28 Apr 2015, 14:43

Wow, that's a really nice review from Vulture.

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dunkaroo02
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Re: The Magic Whip Reviews

Post by dunkaroo02 » 28 Apr 2015, 14:46

He's So High wrote:Wow, that's a really nice review from Vulture.
Lindsay Zoladz is the one who reviewed Blur 21 for pitchfork - more than any other music writer I can think of, she really "gets" Blur. Great review.

peterstillman
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Re: The Magic Whip Reviews

Post by peterstillman » 28 Apr 2015, 14:50

AdvertBreak wrote:I've decided actually the thing which disgusts me the most is that they use the term 'adult contemporary' when referring to MTH and Mirrorball. Adult contemporary? I seriously hate that term, its like shitting on the music from a high storey window, because its just radio soft rock.
If Mirrorball is a adult contemporary then I need whole shit load of adult contemporary in my life.

Levitz
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Re: The Magic Whip Reviews

Post by Levitz » 28 Apr 2015, 14:53


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AdvertBreak
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Re: The Magic Whip Reviews

Post by AdvertBreak » 28 Apr 2015, 14:57

Allmusic have given it 4/5 (who could have guessed? :P )

The review comes later though

http://www.allmusic.com/album/the-magic ... 68/credits" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

WillTrow
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Re: The Magic Whip Reviews

Post by WillTrow » 28 Apr 2015, 15:16

Lets be honest here, the album is a 7/10. The pitchfork guy may not be well suited to the genre but he's laid out why he gave it what he did, and it's hard to argue with him. The higher scores are welcome but are probably too generous, going on provenance and "my god theyre back!", and the low scores are people trying to jump off the hysteria bandwagon and be all holier than thou.

For an album jammed out in a week, its fantastic. But its a 7.

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tom_cas1
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Re: The Magic Whip Reviews

Post by tom_cas1 » 28 Apr 2015, 15:20

What a trash review from Pitchfork. 7/10?! So the same as Everyday Robots. I think not!!

Great review from Rolling Stone though.
Image
Coffee & TV wrote:Any cock bigger than mine is deffo a human marvel. Give it to me, babe.
Pavlich wrote:I did see a bloke in bondage gear with a rubber dick on his head and dildos for arms, but that was about the peak...

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My Name Is Mud
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Re: The Magic Whip Reviews

Post by My Name Is Mud » 28 Apr 2015, 15:21

^ Speak for yourself, buddy. It's at least an 8.5 from me. Probably higher once the dust settles. 9ish.

Edit: that post was directed at the person agreeing with the 7/10, not at Tom obviously! :lol:
Last edited by My Name Is Mud on 28 Apr 2015, 17:02, edited 1 time in total.
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Levitz
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Re: The Magic Whip Reviews

Post by Levitz » 28 Apr 2015, 15:26

Digitalspy 4/5

http://www.digitalspy.co.uk/music/revie ... 1DTHvB2DD4


As the reunion conveyor belt whirrs on, bringing back everyone from Pulp to 5ive in a series of financially lucrative gigs that make wildly varying degrees of sense in 2015, the reconciliation game has become an increasingly cynical one to be in. Recently, Noel Gallagher was quoted as saying that an Oasis reunion would only ever occur (if, not when) "for the money", while the recent restarting of The Libertines' engine was also, by Pete Doherty's own admission, at least initially financially-based. Few, it seems, are even trying to lie that it's about anything much to do with art.

No doubt, following the previous six years of sporadic Blur reunions (Hyde Park shows in 2009 and 2012, a Glastonbury headline slot and a spattering of European shows among them), Damon Albarn, Graham Coxon, Alex James and Dave Rowntree haven't exactly been strapped for cash, but you always got the feeling that Blur were in it for the proper reasons – even if said reasons were largely to right the wrongs of an inter-band relationship breakdown several years before (Coxon left the band in 2002 before the release of Think Tank). Now, is when that point is solidified.

Coxon has stated that the band couldn't have continued playing live without any new material, that "it was getting tedious and some of the fans were getting peeved about it", but there's where the story could have ended. However, with no contractual obligations to fill and a world entirely unaware of their movements, Blur headed down to a Hong Kong studio for six days in 2013. Later, after Albarn had stated that the session work would likely never be released, Coxon and producer Stephen Street picked them up and began to whittle them into what would become The Magic Whip.

It's an album that was announced out of the blue, that no-one expected and that exists because it should - free of cash cow cynicism as proof that Blur still make total sense in 2015.


The Magic Whip at once sounds completely Blur, but completely current. Like the logical successor to 13 – the last album the band made as a four-piece – but with added sonic reference points to Albarn's own solo work, it veers between melancholic introversions, bawdy bangers and experimental layering with aplomb. Crucially, it never sounds like it's trying to recreate the same sonic ticks they had two decades ago, instead happily carving out a set of new ones.

'Lonesome Street' opens the record with its most recognisable characteristics – all jaunty bounce and lyrics about catching the 514 bus, it riffs on the cheeky chappy tropes of old but approaches them with fun rather than force. 'New World Towers', meanwhile, flips the mood immediately, taking dusky, liltingly sparse backing and allowing Albarn's inimitable vocal to take the fore. 'Go Out' is a wonky, wonderful clatter of wired energy, while 'Ice Cream Man' is a seemingly throwaway character study played out over nuanced layers of electronic blips and acoustics. So far, so different.

'Thought I Was A Spaceman' takes sonic influence from its oriental surroundings and begins slowly before kicking into swirls of tremolo-heavy guitars, Coxon's input stamping itself firmly, while 'I Broadcast' is the 'Popscene'-esque banger that'll kick their forthcoming Hyde Park return up another notch and 'My Terracotta Heart' with its 'Everyday Robots' introversions and heartbreaking dissection of Albarn and Coxon's relationship will leave more than a few eyed damp.

The album's closing third treads some of the band's newest ground – from the military stamp of 'There Are Too Many Of Us', to the reggae lilt of 'Ghost Ship' to the bass-led atmospherics of 'Pyong Yang' – but really The Magic Whip is entirely characterised by an overflowing of ideas. Twelve years after their last record, 16 after the last one as a quartet, Blur sound as vital and innovative as they ever did. Bands reunited, take note: this is how you do it.

Levitz
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Re: The Magic Whip Reviews

Post by Levitz » 28 Apr 2015, 15:36

New York Observer

http://observer.com/2015/04/the-magic-w ... -a-decade/

A little over two months ago, on February 19, the four members of Blur convened at the Golden Phoenix restaurant in London’s Chinatown for a press conference to reveal that they had completed a new album, their first in more than a decade and the first to feature the band’s original lineup in 16 years. Each one of them looked stunned. For bassist Alex James and drummer Dave Rowntree, the surprise seemed pleasant. Guitarist Graham Coxon, who’d been sacked in 2002 following a rehab stint and then rejoined the group in 2009, was a tougher read; one might think that his distinguished post-Blur solo career would have boosted his self-esteem, but he came off as quiet and nail-bitingly uncomfortable as ever.

The one thing James, Rowntree and Coxon had in common was that they all politely deferred to frontman Damon Albarn, the obvious alpha dog in the room and the only one who’s sold millions outside Blur (with the animated all-star side project Gorillaz). And everything in Albarn’s posture and facial expressions suggested that he was far from sure about the value of this latest enterprise, but he was going to be the big man, play nice for his old chums, and allow it to go forward.

In short, the dominant signals pointed to Blur’s unexpected eighth album being at best dubious and at worst an utter disaster.

Now that album, The Magic Whip, is on the market. And in an unlikely twist, one that proves body language can be deceptive (at least when coming from repressed English people), it’s far closer to a treasure than a horror. Though rooted in the clanky, quirky, defiantly old-fashioned British pop sound that defined Blur 20 years ago—back when they were duking it out with Oasis to be the U.K.’s No. 1 band—the 12 new tracks go much wider and deeper than that, into bittersweet ’70s soulscapes (“Ghost Ship”), haunted Morricone-ish vistas (“Mirrorball”), and that long-favored Albarn area, the realm of melancholy balladry (“My Terracotta Heart”). There isn’t a bad song in the bunch, and several are as good as anything they’ve ever done.

How could this be? After all, the album’s a patch job, cobbled together from a set of 2013 jam sessions in Hong Kong that were recorded to pass the time after a Tokyo live engagement got canceled. The tracks sat for a year before Coxon revisited them, suspecting they might contain something salvageable. With Albarn’s blessing but not his involvement, Coxon enlisted Stephen Street, the producer who’d worked with Blur in their ’90s heyday, to sort through the recordings with him. Several painstaking weeks later, Street and Coxon had indeed salvaged something, and presented Albarn with an offer he’d have preferred to refuse but couldn’t—the tracks were just too good.

In Mojo’s recent cover story on Blur, producer Ben Hillier makes a telling point. He worked on the band’s previous album, 2003’s Think Tank, recorded mostly without Coxon, and says that during those sessions, “it became clear to me that the person who finished an album was Graham. The person who started stuff was Damon. The hardest thing working with a really creative mind like Damon is making them finish anything … They’re not interested in the craft, they’re interested in the spark. Graham has got a lot more of the craft gene in him."

The Magic Whip bolsters Hillier’s statement. It feels … well, finished, in a way that the uneven Think Tank, for all its virtues, did not. Of course, that’s due in large part to Albarn, who wrote and sang most of the lyrics and vocal melodies here. He remains the principal voice of Blur: more plainly emotional and less cynical than he was as the sniffy social commentator of 1993’s Modern Life Is Rubbish, but no more hopeful. Fading light and failing connections are his leitmotifs, and even a potentially celebratory act like “going to the local” is laced with despair, as heard in the menacingly noisy rocker “Go Out.”

Still, despite the bleakness in these songs, there’s real joy here, too, the joy of a successful reunion. And as crucial as Albarn’s contributions are, it’s clear that this album wouldn’t exist without Coxon. He provides the necessary finishing touches with his continually surprising guitar parts.

Appropriately, Coxon’s plaintive voice is also heard more often than on any prior Blur collection. It provides the climax to “Thought I Was a Spaceman,” the album’s longest and one of its most affecting songs, which begins with Albarn recounting a future nightmare of London’s Hyde Park as a giant sand dune, the result of humanity’s failure to “keep the demons hid.” The music gradually swells, and at its absolute peak Coxon repeats the song’s final verse through heavy reverb like a little lamb lost down a well, before summoning up a pair of tortured guitar lines—one ascending and one descending—that simultaneously burst in a fireball of distortion.

Albarn the curious, confident extrovert and Coxon the nervous, moody introvert have both made excellent music apart from each other over the past 15 years. But The Magic Whip shows that together this oddest of couples still taps into the 1 + 1 = 20 chemistry that distinguishes the best rock bands.

Lt Pinkerton
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Re: The Magic Whip Reviews

Post by Lt Pinkerton » 28 Apr 2015, 15:39

dunkaroo02 wrote:
He's So High wrote:Wow, that's a really nice review from Vulture.
Lindsay Zoladz is the one who reviewed Blur 21 for pitchfork - more than any other music writer I can think of, she really "gets" Blur. Great review.
No wonder why she left Pitchfork :mrgreen: Great write-up.

inkblacksea
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Re: The Magic Whip Reviews

Post by inkblacksea » 28 Apr 2015, 16:28

Pitchfork review is off. The album is a victory lap for the band to be sure, but it's a damn good one. There's nothing wrong with a bit of nostalgia if it's done tastefully as the guys have done on here. It's a fantastic album. Familiar, warm, and lovely.

Also, "Thought I Was a Spaceman" sounds nothing like anything on 13.

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