Blur – ‘The Narcissist’ single review: a gem that combines the very best of their career

90s Blur is back!

A near-perfect comeback for Blur ahead of their July Wembley Stadium shows that harks back to their 'The Great Escape' days.

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I am a huge Blur fan, and have been since I was fifteen years old, when they released their first album in over a decade, 2015’s The Magic Whip. As a twenty-three year old, I have tickets for their 8th July Wembley Stadium show (with editor Amy), and am eagerly anticipating the release of their 9th studio album, The Ballad of Darren later on in the same month.

via Parlophone

Until then, Blur fans have been gifted with the first single from The Ballad of Darren, ‘The Narcissist’. I cannot think of a better way to tide over eager fans until the concerts and the album release.

‘The Narcissist’ begins with a characteristically attention grabbing guitar riff from Graham Coxon, before vocalist Damon Albarn enters. Having edged away from the ‘mockney’ accent he sang in throughout Blur’s nineties backcatalogue in 2015’s The Magic Whip, hints of this return in his vocals on ‘The Narcissist’, subtly blending it amongst the moodier tones he championed during The Magic Whip. It is a brilliant, crafty acknowledgement of their past triumphs, alongside a recognition of their growth as a band in the decades following their nineties heydey.

Also harking back to the 90s tracks that they are most famed for, particularly on 1995’s The Great Escape, is the use of echoing, choir-like backing vocals, repeating some of the lyrics that Albarn sings. It is, again, an understated nod to their nineties prime that works incredibly well.

Lyrically, the track is introspective, exploring the band members’ struggles with their senses of self over the years. This is reflected immediately in the song’s first line: ‘Looked in the mirror, so many people standing there’. Whether this references the band’s nineties popularity, constantly surrounded by fans, press and celebrities, or their struggles with discovering their true selves is up for interpretation. It is, of course, possible that it has a dual meaning, tackling both of these issues. It is a departure from the melancholy, often haunting lyrics of The Magic Whip, which told a story of distant places and people. ‘The Narcissist’ returns to what Blur have always done so well, telling the personal story of a particular person.

via Shamil Tanna

However, where in the nineties this was often done with a tongue-in-cheek style, ‘The Narcissist’ combines the more serious tone of The Magic Whip with the personal storytelling of nineties tracks such as ‘Tracy Jacks’ and ‘Dan Abnormal’. Again, this forms something that is lyrically mature and self-reflective, but also retains elements of classic Blur charm.

The track’s title itself, ‘The Narcissist’, perhaps points to the band’s unwillingness to fall back into past behaviours, using the song’s chorus almost as a manifestation that this will not happen. The lyrics ‘But I won’t fall this time. With Godspeed, I’ll heed the signs’. This is again a mature recognition of their growth as individuals from their nineties peak fame. The song’s lyrics as a whole look back as a means to moving forwards, recognising past mistakes and wanting to heal and learn from these.

via Alamy

The track swells to a crescendo at the end, with Coxon’s guitar and Dave Rowntree’s drums becoming loud and overpowering after Albarn stops singing. Prior to this, the guitar riff and drums were a lot softer, almost akin to those found in ‘Coffee & TV’. To me, this signifies that Blur are back with a bang, ready to release music that both reminisces on their past and incorporates elements of their more experimental 2015 album. After listening to ‘The Narcissist’, taking note of the lyrics and experiencing its musical crescendo at the end, you will want to listen again. It is a gem that combines the very best of Blur’s career, and I, for one, cannot wait for The Ballad of Darren to release, and see what other tracks Blur have up their sleeves.

See you at Wembley on the 8th July, boys!

The Narcissist is out now via Parlophone. You can listen to it here:


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In the top 0.01% of Duran Duran listeners on Spotify in 2020. Also Records Editor for 2022/2023.

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