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1st June 2023

Blur announce comeback album with new single ‘The Narcissist’

‘The Ballad of Darren’ will be their first album in eight years, and on the evidence of this single, it promises to be a good one.
Blur announce comeback album with new single ‘The Narcissist’
Blur, ‘The Narcissist’ Official Single Art

After announcing a series of reunion gigs back in April, Britpop legends Blur are coming back with The Ballad of Darren, their first studio album since 2015’s The Magic Whip. The album announcement was accompanied by a trailer (below), artwork, track list and a lead single, ‘The Narcissist’, and these teasers are crammed with clues for what to expect from the new album.

The trailer is shot in gloomy black-and-white, but the band are shown laughing and having fun throughout, suggesting that Darren won’t be a bleak and fractured heartbreak album in the vein of 1999’s 13. Elsewhere, shots of strings and trumpets indicate that some tracks on the new album will have an orchestral flavour, something which was present on many of Blur’s earlier hits including ‘The Universal’, ‘For Tomorrow’ and ‘To The End’. Indeed, the artwork seems to hark back to 1995’s The Great Escape in its aquatic theme and use of the italicised Blur logo. Meanwhile, the contrast between the blue swimming pool and the ominous rain clouds support the mix of joy and gloom suggested by the trailer.

Blur: The Ballad Of Darren Vinyl & CD. Norman Records UK
Blur, ‘The Ballad of Darren’ Official Album Art

However, the most interesting part of this announcement is, of course, ‘The Narcissist’, which may be their best single since ‘Out of Time’ in 2003.

The song begins in literally reflective mood: “Looked in the mirror / So many people standing there” (the music video, fittingly, features a rotating synthesizer reflected in a mirror). However, the reflected image is hazy, ethereal and overwhelming, as Damon’s aged voice describes: “There was distortion everywhere […] I felt rubato standing there / Found my transcendent”. Later lines about taking acid and becoming addicted could be heard as an allusion to Damon’s own history of drug addiction, but he actually describes these lines as a metaphor for our “addiction to image… the way we see ourselves” through the “filters” of the digital age. As Alex James and Dave Rowntree‘s rhythm section drives it forward, the track builds to an anthemic chorus, culminating in a message of optimistic caution: “I won’t fall this time / With Godspeed I’ll heed the signs.”

Following Blur’s post-Britpop trend towards increasing complexity and experimentation, ‘The Narcissist’ surprises in its simplicity; veering mainly between two chords and featuring call-and-response vocals between frontman Damon Albarn and guitarist Graham Coxon. Perhaps the song would have benefited from some more variety in Graham’s guitar part, but ultimately Blur have delivered their most life-affirming song in two decades. At once uplifting and melancholy, it’s the sound of a band looking back on its career, its twists and turns, its good moments and dark moments – and having no regrets.


The Ballad of Darren is set for release on 21 July. Hear ‘The Narcissist’ below.


Jake Rowley

Jake Rowley

Jake is a third year music (MusB) undergraduate at the University of Manchester, with intentions of doing a masters in musicology next year. His music interests are varied, but he particularly loves alternative rock and Britpop, and is a big fan of Radiohead, The Cure, Sonic Youth and The Beatles.Jake is also a moderator on the lyrics website Genius under the alias ‘Irrelevant Cabbage’.

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