The Ballad of Darren


The last time Blur reformed for a string of international dates it resulted in a new album, 2015’s The Magic Whip. Despite the veil of secrecy surrounding the album’s recording, it perhaps shouldn’t have been too much of a shock that 2023’s live jaunt came accompanied by new music. What was perhaps surprising though, was that Blur’s ninth album stood up among their very best. The Ballad of Darren found Damon Albarn looking back at both the band’s past and his own crumbling relationship with long-term partner Suzi Winstanley with an emotional directness he has by his own admission sometimes skirted around on past Blur albums. Blur have often been at their most effective when they lean towards the melancholic and songs such as “The Narcissist,” “Barbaric” and Berlin era Bowie-esque “Goodbye Albert” sigh within their surroundings (the band, and in particular guitarist Graham Coxon, are on sparkling, economic, and sympathetic form throughout). Even on the spikey boisterousness of second single “St. Charles Square,” unseen terrors lurking “underneath the floorboards” speak of an unshakable unease.

Chris Catchpole