Magic Whip - song by song impressions

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UnderThePuritan
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Magic Whip - song by song impressions

Post by UnderThePuritan » 24 Apr 2015, 16:01

1 – Lonesome Street (8/10) – The most ‘stereotypical’ Blur song on the record so to speak, but that’s not denigrating the song in anyway, rather just reflecting the bouncy, light-hearted nature of the track. The song goes for almost four and a half minutes, but it doesn’t overstay its welcome, progressing nicely with the fluttering electronics fitting the track perfectly. Very nice cameo from Graham on the vocals, and an effortlessly catchy chorus to end the song. Top return.

2 – New World Towers (5/10) – A song that is growing on me all the time, nicely produced, with the layered synth woodwind sounds gradually becoming more prominent through the song. Nice guitar fills from Graham help bridge parts of the song. My only complaint with this track would be its track listing – being sandwiched between two of the most energetic tracks on the album makes it fit a tad awkwardly. A song like My Terracotta Heart which has a similar wistful feel could have served the purpose of this track, I think it would have fit slightly better due to its more prominent percussion.

3 – Go Out (8/10) – A slightly misleading first taste of the album, Go Out is an absolute belter. Graham lets loose on this track, but his performance is enhanced due to a masterful rhythm track produced by Alex’s funky bassline and Dave’s energetic drumming (his ‘solo’ at 2:42 is one of the most satisfying parts on the album). Damon’s discordant synth is reminiscent of the ending of He Thought of Cars. This song is edgy, funky and cool. A really enjoyable track.

4 – Ice Cream Man (4/10) – An intriguing song that leads in with an almost nursery rhyme melody line. I loved Damon’s assertions that this song was something of a horror story about a creepy, creepy man. Alex shines most brightly here, with a very nice fill in the middle of the song. As catchy as this song is, it doesn’t reach greater heights (which it doesn’t have to), but it’s a good album track. Wish the ‘oh, oh, ohs’ were more prominent in the recording.

5 – Thought I Was A Spaceman (6/10) – Thought I Was A Spaceman succeeds as the best track off the album on a purely atmospherical point of view. A slow burner really unlike anything Blur have done before (maybe Caramel at a stretch?) builds suspense masterfully. Dave drives the track forward as he does a few times on this album (There Are Too Many of Us another good example). The synths that enter around 3.20 are taken from the sands of Plastic Beach, which can only a great thing. Graham’s singing suits the anguished feel of the song and its protagonist, his guitars striking a great blow at the culmination of the song. This continues to grow on me and I think I may be underrating it slightly.

6 – I Broadcast (6/10) – I love this song but I think they have erred on the studio recording. There is too much fiddling about, when a pure four man assault would have done the song more justice; the stop-start nature of the track also lets it down slightly. The guitars are more prominent live which is a great thing as Graham probably contributed his best guitar licks of the album on this track. The vocal melody on the chorus seems to be slightly off as well. The only reason I’m critiquing the track to an extent is because I think it’s such a terrific song – just let down slightly by the recording. Pluses – Damon’s tomfoolery throughout is infectious, reminiscent of ‘Swamp Song’ and ‘Punk’.

7 – My Terracotta Heart (7/10) – Initially, this song didn’t interest me very much as a live recording, but it’s funny how a drum loop can really hold a track together. Whilst I feel pretty critical of the amount of programmed drums on other tracks (I Broadcast and Pyongyang really don’t need them), it fits well here. They remind me of the drums from ‘Arp #1’ by Jackson and his Computerband. The deep-house infused synths that pop up prior to each chorus are a nice touch. Graham and Alex play well off each other, whilst Damon’s vocals are amongst his strongest on the album. His return to a higher vocal register is very welcome.

8 – There Are Too Many Of Us (9/10) – The keystone of the album which is reminiscent of latter day Gorillaz. This song is one I could see being successful on the radio if marketed correctly. While there are others on this album that I could see benefitting from a greater input (or volume) of Graham, this doesn’t – it builds tremendously through strings and reverbed keyboards. I loved the effects on Damon’s vocals. The change in chords in the instrumental interludes towards the end of the track help give it an ominous, foreboding edge; which only helps enhance the dystopian feel of the song. Brilliant song.

9 – Ghost Ship (8/10) – Another of Damon’s Specials infused songs. This is a sparkling song, the whole rhythm section are at their strongest here. I could picture a song like this belonging on Think Tank had Graham still been in the band at the time; it has a warm atmosphere that is infectious as hell. Damon’s vocals are wonderful and I adore the keyboards that close the song, it sounds like a killer melody line to an old 16 bit game. Another song unlike anything Blur has done in the past, but they hit the board very convincingly.

10 – Pyongyang (7/10) – A beautiful piece of music, but a track that fails to come near the heights of the live rendition. This song melodically and lyrically is the strongest on the album and was the obvious standout live. However, this version left me a tad numb on first listen. The dynamic between Damon/Graham is skewed way too far in Damon’s favour on the recording. I’m sure the songs subtleness is deliberate and is meant to convey the detachment and desolation the people of North Korea would surely feel, but a more dramatic, heavier version – with Dave actually drumming and Graham’s otherworldly guitars being much more prominent in the mix, would lead the song to become one of Blur’s best ever songs, rather than a good album track.

11 – Ong Ong (2/10) – One of only a handful of Blur tracks EVER that I can’t stomach. This song just feels so half-assed and isn’t even rescued by the beautiful oriental piano line that enters in the second half. Pass.

12 – Mirrorball (6/10) – This will definitely be the biggest ‘grower’ off the album. Mirrorball almost sounds like a song that would have been featured on old western films. The strings are gorgeous, as is Graham’s reverb-heavy guitar. I’m very fond on the song (and album’s) abrupt, almost unexpected ending, closing with the lyric “hold close to me”.



SUMMARY: ‘The Magic Whip’ is a strong collection of songs which is a fine return effort from the Blur boys. The only complaints of note from this 12 track would perhaps be the slight leaning towards Damon’s ‘kind’ of music rather than Graham’s rough, abrasive side, which squashes the dynamics and energy somewhat. The reliance on programmed drumming in some tracks is a little surprising; it works well on some songs but falls short on others. Some bleeps and ambient sounds may have been better left off also. In spite of this, I’m very satisfied and thankful that my favourite band have returned once more to release a top notch record. Thank you Mr. Coxon!

7/10
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dunkaroo02
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Re: Magic Whip - song by song impressions

Post by dunkaroo02 » 24 Apr 2015, 16:09

UnderThePuritan wrote: 11 – Ong Ong (2/10) – One of only a handful of Blur tracks EVER that I can’t stomach. This song just feels so half-assed and isn’t even rescued by the beautiful oriental piano line that enters in the second half. Pass.
for what it's worth, I think this song makes a lot more sense when you consider that this is probably their last record. I see it as kind of a last little farewell to the happy-go-lucky Blur we remember from MLIR and Parklife. For some reason the "I got on a boat on a hot sunny day /To get out of this town /But the tarmac was melting and the people seemed to sway" lyrics strike me as very melancholy and celebratory at the same time.

UnderThePuritan
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Re: Magic Whip - song by song impressions

Post by UnderThePuritan » 24 Apr 2015, 16:13

dunkaroo02 wrote:
UnderThePuritan wrote: 11 – Ong Ong (2/10) – One of only a handful of Blur tracks EVER that I can’t stomach. This song just feels so half-assed and isn’t even rescued by the beautiful oriental piano line that enters in the second half. Pass.
for what it's worth, I think this song makes a lot more sense when you consider that this is probably their last record. I see it as kind of a last little farewell to the happy-go-lucky Blur we remember from MLIR and Parklife. For some reason the "I got on a boat on a hot sunny day /To get out of this town /But the tarmac was melting and the people seemed to sway" lyrics strike me as very melancholy and celebratory at the same time.
I agree mate, I feel bad for not liking the song as I understand that you need these kind of songs on a record, but I'm just a terrible cynic haha.

..and it's probably the only time I haven't liked la's in a Blur song hahaha
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Re: Magic Whip - song by song impressions

Post by davidsutter » 24 Apr 2015, 21:27

Oh come on, it's got way better la-la's than The Puritan!

Daysleeper
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Re: Magic Whip - song by song impressions

Post by Daysleeper » 24 Apr 2015, 21:55

Interesting review of each track.

When you are giving tracks 4/10 of you give them very positive write-ups! :D

I have only listened to the album twice so far, waiting until I get it for another listen. But I agree with a few of your points, the production concerns my a bit as I felt like you did about the recorded version of Pyongyang. Live it blew me away on the album I wondered what had happened to Graham's amazing guitar work that added so much to the emotion of the song.

I'm not really liking the production in general, too many synths and not enough of Graham's guitars. I know he tried to restrain them on this album, but having heard it live, you wonder why on earth he would, they are incredible and add so much to the songs.

So far my favourites are Go Out, There are too many of us and Mirrorball. Don't think it is any coincidence that two of them have crisper guitars that are a lot more prominent in the mix.

Hopefully the more I listen the more it will grow on me, just first impressions, I thought all of Street's production work on previous Blur albums was fantastic, so I was a bit taken back by the recorded versions of these songs.

It can be the difference between an album being good and great and I think an album like The Good The Bad the Queen suffered on that front.
Last edited by Daysleeper on 24 Apr 2015, 22:39, edited 1 time in total.

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Rubi
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Re: Magic Whip - song by song impressions

Post by Rubi » 24 Apr 2015, 22:25

^ After my first two listens I was feeling like you in regards to the production. After the 4th listen I had a completely different view. Just give it time.

Daysleeper
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Re: Magic Whip - song by song impressions

Post by Daysleeper » 24 Apr 2015, 22:40

Rubi wrote:^ After my first two listens I was feeling like you in regards to the production. After the 4th listen I had a completely different view. Just give it time.
I hope so Rubi, because the songs are there!!

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101reykjavik
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Re: Magic Whip - song by song impressions

Post by 101reykjavik » 24 Apr 2015, 22:44

I know where you are coming from Daysleeper - TGTBATQ was a let down production-wise, and it takes a while to adapt to the studio versions of TMW. But I really have no reservations of note about them now they have bedded in. Hopefully you'll feel the same.
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Re: Magic Whip - song by song impressions

Post by Daysleeper » 24 Apr 2015, 23:05

Good to hear that others had the same first impressions and are now loving it!

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Re: Magic Whip - song by song impressions

Post by Forever Low Man » 25 Apr 2015, 00:34

Based on what I remember:

1. Lonesome Street- Probably the best song on the album. Shame it had to be first.

2. New World Towers- Damon's been lying again. This is Gorillaz. No one can convince me otherwise.

3. Go Out- The vocals kinda ruin this one for me, but maybe I've just heard it too many times. Not bad, but nothing I'll spend too much time listening too.

4. Ice Cream Man- This would be amazing if not for that little thing that pops up a lot. (You know what I mean.)

5. Thought I Was A Spaceman- A little on the longer side, but certainly not bad.

6. I Broadcast- I loved the Jools Holland version. The album version felt a little lacking, in the sense that the extra keyboards just felt off to me.

7. My Terracotta Heart- The grower of the album. My first impression was that this song was two minutes too long, but over time I got to really like it.

8. There Are Too Many Of Us- Amazing.

9. Ghost Ship- Second best song on the album.

10. Pyongyang- Don't remember this one very well. The instrumental sounded cool in MiHK though.

11. Ong Ong- I want to be with you.

12. Mirrorball- I don't remember this one at all. I think there's an A minor chord in there somewhere, but aside from that, I'm clueless. Sorry.


As I said before, this album is not one of Blur's more accessible albums, and since I'm an on-off Blur fan these days, this one took a while to really click for me. It ain't bad, though. 6.5/10
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munch
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Re: Magic Whip - song by song impressions

Post by munch » 25 Apr 2015, 01:22

UnderThePuritan wrote:
dunkaroo02 wrote:
UnderThePuritan wrote: 11 – Ong Ong (2/10) – One of only a handful of Blur tracks EVER that I can’t stomach. This song just feels so half-assed and isn’t even rescued by the beautiful oriental piano line that enters in the second half. Pass.
for what it's worth, I think this song makes a lot more sense when you consider that this is probably their last record. I see it as kind of a last little farewell to the happy-go-lucky Blur we remember from MLIR and Parklife. For some reason the "I got on a boat on a hot sunny day /To get out of this town /But the tarmac was melting and the people seemed to sway" lyrics strike me as very melancholy and celebratory at the same time.
I agree mate, I feel bad for not liking the song as I understand that you need these kind of songs on a record, but I'm just a terrible cynic haha.

..and it's probably the only time I haven't liked la's in a Blur song hahaha
Already going through a bunch of different emotions since I got the album I can tell you you may need every single track on this album for different occasions :D
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ricj
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Re: Magic Whip - song by song impressions

Post by ricj » 25 Apr 2015, 09:34

When it comes to I Broadcast, even though I haven't heard the album version yet (discipline!) I get the feeling I will get the same feeling I got when I heard the studio version of B L U R E M I for the first time after being only familiar with the live version...
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Re: Magic Whip - song by song impressions

Post by Daysleeper » 25 Apr 2015, 17:47

Ok, having listened twice in the week and now being surprised by the cd arriving a couple of days early today. I have now listened 5 times, I think I can give my early feelings about each song.

As you suggested Rubi and 101reykjavik my concerns about the production are disappearing bar a couple of songs.

So...

1. Lonesome Street- 7.5 - I like it and it has got some great guitars but I don't love it as it goes over old ground for me and doesn't do this style as well as some songs on Modern Life is Rubbish.

2. New world towers- 8 Not a popular one amongst other people, but I really love it, think it is a beautiful song with beautiful guitars.

3. Go out- 9 - Every time I hear this song I need to turn it up loud, the guitar and bass are fantastic and as someone else mentioned it is such a good strut/swagger song. I still reckon Damon's vocals could have been a bit better, but they generally work with the song.

4. Ice Cream man- 6.5 I hated the nursery rhyme vibe of this song on the first couple of listens, but it has got more depth to it than first appeared, definitely a grower.

5. I thought I was a spaceman - 9.5 - Just beautiful, especially Graham's vocals. Best part is definitely his guitar freak out towards the end, very moving.

6. I Broadcast - 7 - I enjoy it, but I don't know how much longevity it will have. Again at first on the album it sounded a mess but after a few listens it sounds much better.

7. My Terracotta Heart - 8 - Another beautiful moment, similar to Damon's recent solo stuff, but that bit better with the rest of the band involved.

8. There are too many of us- 9.5 - Loved it from first listen. The way the song builds works so well and even though it is still quite subdued I love Damon's last 'it's plaaaiin to see'. It just takes it up a level.

9. Ghost ship - 9 - Wow, another one that on first couple of listens seemed a bit throw away to me. The melody is beautiful, the bass is brilliant and I just love the outro to the song. On the surface a summery song, but when you get into it it is a very moving, classic Blur melancholy.

10. Pyongyang - 8 - Seems to be all I am saying but it is another beautiful one, however, I still feel the production lets this down a bit having heard it live. Would easily be a 9 based on the live version.

11. Ong Ong - 6 - Mmm, I enjoy it enough, but not a classic and one that I think will be getting skipped further down the line.

12. Mirrorball - 9 - I love the darker side of Blur and this is the perfect closer for me. Graham's guitars are brilliant and Damon's lyrics are pretty desperate sounding, love it!

Overall I am saying an 8.5 at the moment, I don't think it will become my favourite Blur album as 13 is not likely to be moved from that spot, but definite potential to be my second favourite.
Last edited by Daysleeper on 26 Apr 2015, 07:10, edited 4 times in total.

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Re: Magic Whip - song by song impressions

Post by Rubi » 25 Apr 2015, 18:05

Good comments. :) I agree with most of your ratings, though I enjoy I Broadcast and Ong Ong a lot more.

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Re: Magic Whip - song by song impressions

Post by munch » 25 Apr 2015, 20:26

brief impressions
I won't bother rating because they'll all be 9 or 10/10 :D

Lonesome Street:
So enjoyable. There are so many little touches in there to make this song so much more. It really goes on a journey through moods and sounds and reaches a wonderful whistly end.

New World Towers:
For whatever reason this is the only track I feel is out of place in the order of tracks. I love this song a lot but it does sound like a big drop after Lonesome Street. There could have been a smoother transition.
Besides that though, very catchy, very emotional and my favourite thing about the studio version is the simple percussion from Dave.

Go Out:
Great. Really gritty compared to the rest of the album. You can't beat the lo-lo-lo-locaaal

Ice Cream Man:
Just a joy! I love the electronic sound. Ifthey were going for some kind of sound impression of an ice cream van and ice creams in general then they nailed that. That plus the acoustic sound and brilliant vocals I love it.

Thought I was a Space Man:
This song takes the biggest journey and completely blankets me inside it's universe. I decided, when waking up at 5 am that this track would be most suited for a morning listen. It is excellent for that, warms you in and wakes you up in such a way.
It's just epic. Possibly the most memorable track in the long run? Time will tell.

I broadcast:
We all wanted this and it's brilliant. Plus Damon screams are always invited.

My Terracotta Heart:
I cried.. maybe on second listen. And personally believe this is the height of Damon's voice and lyrics on the album. Love grahams guitar.

There are too many of us:
Possibly the greatest song on the album.... speaks to us all and speaks at us all. The build up is beautiful. Needs to be a single.

Ghostship:
Sooo good. that sax. and the bit where damon sings 'in hong kong' So good.. This tracks helps me understand exactly why Damon feels he had to retrace his steps in Hong Kong. Musicially though, it's just so smooth.

Pyongyang:
Not much needs to be said about this track... the word beautiful has been used... and I'd have to agree. Everything is perfect. After looking at the cd book I realised Damon says "Kid" first which is quite interesting in the chorus.

Ong Ong:
Disappointed by only the unenthusiastic lalas behind grahams. Other than that, if you don't listen too closely to them this is a delight of a track and one to put a smile on your face after listening to a few downbeat tracks. love it.

Mirrorball:
A nice ending to the album and one with just delightful violins flowing through. The track sounds a bit Think Tanky to me.
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