Britpop heroes Blur return with a new album on Friday 21 July 2023.
Entitled The Ballad of Darren, the 10-track album arrives alongside a flurry of live performances including a triumphant recent appearance in Wolverhampton’s reopened Civic Halls in May, and Wembley Stadium in July. A global live stream performance of the album in full will also take place on Thursday 25 July, at 9pm, from London’s Eventim Apollo.
Thirty-two years on from their debut album, Leisure, and 29 years since their era-defining Parklife, The Ballad Of Darren is the band’s ninth studio album, and their first since 2015’s chart-topping The Magic Whip.
With the original quartet – Damon Albarn, Graham Coxon, Alex James and Dave Rowntree – all present, it begins with The Ballad – a piano/beatbox ballad with typically Blur-like decorations that elevate it beyond an Albarn solo.
From the lush string ballad of The Everglades (For Leonard) into the subtly soaring The Narcissist, the 10-track collection finds Blur playing to their current strengths, rather than clone past glories, and embracing a contemporary sheen without pandering to the pull of faddish tricks.
Unlike the over-rated near hour-long The Magic Whip, The Ballad Of Darren comes in at around 35mins, and benefits from a focused, concise approach. It doesn’t feel like there’s any fillers.
Here’s a certainly older, hopefully wiser, Blur. Reflective, melancholic, you’re unlikely to find this bunch down the dog track – but that’s no bad thing.
Finishing on The Heights (unless you have the deluxe version, which adds two extra tracks), it all ends abruptly in the middle of a swirl of fuzz, a sudden conclusion that shows Blur have lost none of their playfulness.