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Blur's new album The Ballad of Darren lives up to the hype with incredible new evolution for band

Blur's new album The Ballad of Darren lives up to the hype with incredible new evolution for band

The album manages to create a new sound for the band while still tapping into what made them special

First of all, I need to add a disclaimer. I’m a big Blur fan from Colchester in Essex, where the majority of the band grew up and met each other. So naturally, it’s been a thrill for me to listen to their first album in eight years.

However, I believe as a fan you hold your favorite artists to a higher standard than any neutral would, and it becomes very clear right from the off that the same applies and then some to those in the band.

It’s incredibly apparent by now that Damon Albarn, Graham Coxon, Alex James and Dave Rowntree aren’t happy with just settling for what they know and churning out safe hit after safe hit. They’ve said as much themselves. And once again, they’ve let their music do the talking to prove it.

The Ballad of Darren is Blur's first album since 2015's The Magic Whip, and just their second in 20 years.
Reuben Bastienne-Lewis

The Ballad of Darren is an absolute success in that it’s musically brilliant, incredibly thought-provoking, emotional and something both similar yet very different from anything Blur has done before.

It definitely harks back to the classic Blur sound more than their last album, The Magic Whip, did, but its deeply personal lyrics and refined music and energy completely sets it apart. This immediately became clear from the release of the first single, The Narcissist, and was only emphasized further when St. Charles Square came thundering along a month later.

These singles, in addition to the awesome Wembley Stadium gigs, have built anticipation for the album up to fever pitch and I’m very glad to say The Ballad of Darren thoroughly delivers on that hype.

The band announced the new album in May of this year ahead of two historic gigs at Wembley Stadium.

The album’s emotion really seeps throughout, in particular during The Ballad, Barbaric and Goodbye Albert, with Albarn pouring his heart out in a way only 1999’s 13 can compare. He’s described The Ballad of Darren as a ‘heartbreak record’ and there’s no disputing that.

Blur were noted during their early Britpop fame for their albums following a theme, observing society with lyrics consistently revolving around third person terms such as ‘he/she/they/’. This album, by comparison, is very much ‘I/my/we’ as it follows a heartrending journey that anyone can relate to.

Alas, it also conveys the journey the band has been on since their debut album Leisure in 1991. Damon Albarn has said of the new album: “The record feels like something we just had to do. Also, to kind of round out the whole Blur thing.

“I don’t want to say that this is our last album, but it’s certainly one of the final chapters in the Book of Blur. And one of the key chapters.”

If this is the end, they’re definitely going out on a high. Blur as a band won’t be around forever, but with albums like The Ballad of Darren, their influence isn’t going anywhere.


The Ballad of Darren by Blur releases on July 21 2023, via Parlophone.

Featured Image Credit: Reuben Bastienne-Lewis/Jim Dyson / Contributor