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Blur – ‘The Ballad of Darren’ review: their brilliance continues

by Phil G 24 Jul 2023
That sense of brotherhood, a bond that looks only to have strengthened over time, is felt often – it gives ‘The Ballad of Darren’ its purpose. The way Albarn and Coxon’s vocals interact on the ‘The Ballad’, two pals bound together since their teens, is heartening: when Albarn sighs “I’ll fall along with you”, and Coxon coos back “we travelled around the world together”, it’s hard not to imagine that they’re talking publicly to each other. On ‘The Heights’, he’s gushing at the amount of love he’s felt from the Blur faithful for 30 years: “I gave a lot of heart, so did you / Standing in the back row, this one’s for you” he sings atop a gentle acoustic strum.

Unlike many of their peers, there has never been a timelessness to a Blur album – that’s a good thing. When you listen to ‘Modern Life Is Rubbish’ now, you can feel disdain for the culture that surrounded them, or the raw confusion of heartbreak on 1999’s ‘13’; they have a way of transporting you to a precise moment or emotion. It’s why ‘The Ballad of Darren’ is so memorable and touching: you can feel it, everything, in every line sung or note played. Speaking to NME last week, Rowntree says that when they were recording, “everything we tried, worked”, and that “magic was in the air”. It is keenly felt here; may it never fade away.
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