The Ballad of Darren

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Music lover 100 posts TV addict 1st post
Apr 10, 2023
Title: The Ballad of Darren
Artist: Blur
Genre: Alternative Rock
Released: 2023

1 - The Ballad - 0:00
2 - St. Charles Square - 0:00
3 - Barbaric - 0:00
4 - Russian Strings - 0:00
5 - The Everglades (For Leonard) - 0:00
6 - The Narcissist - 4:05
7 - Goodbye Albert - 0:00
8 - Far Away Island - 0:00
9 - Avalon - 0:00
10 - The Heights - 0:00

Early on in The Ballad of Darren, the unexpected and understated Blur reunion album, Damon Albarn sings "We have lost the feeling that we thought we'd never lose," a line that could easily be interpreted as the vocalist addressing his bandmates. Blur lost an intangible feeling during an acrimonious split in the early 2000s, the band limping forward after the departure of guitarist Graham Coxon during the sessions for Think Tank. Within a few years, the group tended to their lingering wounds, healing enough to play the occasional reunion concert, a union that eventually led to The Magic Whip, a happy accident of an album. The Ballad of Darren is something entirely different. Where Coxon crafted The Magic Whip from studio jams the band left behind after a week exiled in Hong Kong, Blur recorded The Ballad of Darren as a unit within the studio, shaping and coloring compositions Albarn wrote while on tour with Gorillaz in 2022. It's how Blur made records back in the '90s but, notably, the group replaced their mainstay Stephen Street with James Ford, a producer who has worked with Arctic Monkeys and Florence and the Machine, not to mention Gorillaz. Ford teases out the louche, loungey aspects of Albarn's songs, lending a lushness to the melancholy undercurrents that flow through The Ballad of Darren. Apart from "St. Charles Square," which announces itself with a flurry of guitar skronk and profanity, there's no direct evocation of Blur's younger days; far from conjuring the ghost of the melodramatic "To the End," the hints of hi-fi sophistication lend weary texture to melodies that sigh and linger. Albarn spends the album pondering severed connections and vanished spaces, sentiments that could be read either as mourning a personal loss or as a meditation on a post-pandemic world, yet The Ballad of Darren doesn't feel precisely sad, not in the way Damon's solo albums often can. Blur gives Albarn's songs depth and dimension, as Graham Coxon decorates the margins left by the elastic rhythms of Alex James and Dave Rowntree. The Magic Whip hinted at the essence of this chemistry but The Ballad of Darren revels in it, resulting in an album that feels age-appropriate without being stodgy: it's mature and nuanced, cherishing the connections that once were taken for granted but now seem precious.