The Ballad of Darren



With the multitude of music that Blur frontman Damon Albarn is plugged into, it’s no surprise that there are dashes of David Bowie that seep into the band’s first album in eight years. Specifically, it’s Bowie’s triumphant art-pop synthesis as perfected on Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps) that reverberates in tracks such as ‘St Charles Square’ (which is unapologetically in debt to the vocal melody of ‘Up The Hill Backwards’).


However, beyond these flashes of Bowie, the ten tracks on The Ballad of Darren mostly sound like a merging of alternate dimensions found in the extended Albarn multiverse. In the way that Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps) was a full-stop to Bowie’s infamous decade of wide-ranging and unhinged musical experimentation, The Ballad of Darren feels like a dreamlike recollection of the vast sonic space that Albarn has traversed since Blur’s 2015 album The Magic Whip.

Stirring operatic opener ‘The Ballad’ is cooling to the ears, dripping with the frost of Albarn’s adopted Iceland found in his solo material, ‘Russian Strings’ has glimpses of the downtempo electronic plastic-soul banger that Gorillaz have made their own, and luscious closer ‘The Heights’ is the kind of soaring heartfelt sendoff at which Blur excel.

Despite its looseness and one or two tracks that simply pass by, there’s something decidedly warm and comforting to the record’s bleeding borders; to quote T.S. Eliot, it possesses “not youth nor age” but is “dreaming of both”. A genuine and confident record that could well find a significant place in Blur’s discography.