In a summer when Pulp are set to return to the stage, one Gallagher is set to release a new record, and another is promising to tour one of Oasis’ classics, it’d be easy to tag nostalgia and retromania to the return of Britpop’s third (or, let’s be honest here, first) great pillar and leave it at that. People of a certain age, clawing at the memories of their youth, queuing for hotdogs and overpriced foamy pints at the stadium show.
But that’s never been blur.
Even among such storied peers, Damon Albarn’s unquantifiable stardust still shines. Regularly applied to his big pop project Gorillaz, or any number of ever-evolving, wide-reaching projects, his songwriting remains both prolific and sonically diverse. But whenever it’s returned to the bosom of the band in which he made his name, it becomes something else entirely.
‘The Narcissist’ drips in sentimentality. Not the icky, cheap, performative kind, but one that glows like embers on a dimming fire. Smouldering with wistful euphoria, it’s a song that remembers the good times, facing the present with goosebumps raised.
While 2015’s ‘The Magic Whip’ was a good album, it was never one that suggested an appetite for a repeat. This is different. Like most of blur’s best latter-day moments – notably the magnificent ‘Under The Westway’ – it’s seen time pass, but it still has the desire to dream.
Those old tricks still work – it’s just like riding a bike – but blur aren’t a band trying to cling to an era that made them famous. Unlike most of their peers, they’ve always had the capacity to embrace both age and change with both hands. Graham Coxon’s melodies still drive Albarn’s yearning vocal to even higher heights, while Alex James and Dave Rowntree provide a rhythm section that lay the foundations perfectly for takeoff. Evolving with both age and the world around them, ‘The Narcissist’ is a hat tipped to a band more than comfortable in who they are now, still capable of being just as brilliant as they always were.