As delightful as the bonus tracks of Blur may be, head-scratching is bound to follow. Why leave them off the recent record, The Ballad of Darren? Do the throwaways of work constitute the release of it anyway? Why does Damon Albarn insist on these extra bits and pieces when it went horribly wrong for his Gorillaz project with Cracker Island? None of this is answered. Not one bit. But The Rabbi is at least an entertaining and brief momentum holder for the returning Britpop four-piece. It opens with similar intent and tone to a carnival ride, the loose and twee exploration of muffled guitars are certain influence of Graham Coxon. Still, the brooding Albarn strikes through with lyrics befitting of the lengthy look back at their careers.
Considering their close proximity to one another, the lyrical steps here feel closer to something Jarvis Cocker may write up should he move his mind away from German clubs and sexless nights. The Rabbi has something jovial to it, something carefree that carries it forward as a break from the emotionally charged warblings of the album proper. “There is no going back now”, Albarn warns. Fitting those words are for a band whose tone and sound have changed so frequently between reunions, The Rabbi takes a long-winded form that works. Coxon brings flickers of the sound The Ballad of Darren focused so much of its energy on a neutered guitar, a heavy and muffled appeal to its crashing waves of contemplation.
Obvious cries for it to be an album core song followed the release of The Rabbi, but it works in its isolated state, away from the fervour and overwhelming expectations. Albarn seems to be in top lyrical form for this one and the independent brush-up which comes with a bonus track may be why. Pressure is off, let those new ideas flow. Flow they do, completely disconnected and genuine in its warmth. Lonely long-distance drivers and evading storms bring out such vivid imagery, and it is likely one of the best tracks by Blur in some years to do so. Stretch back, further past Think Tank and into the grunge of their post-Britpop works, and that is where you will find Blur in this quality. Lost and found lyrics, the back and forth present there, come about as a reflection on those dark and hopeless periods.
Blur are no longer in the throes of horror as they and their Britpop contemporaries once found themselves. Reunion in their heart and new material churning away in their minds has given Blur a new lease on life. The Ballad of Darren was expression enough of this, but The Rabbi holds a candle to what the band can still push on to do. Whether this is the end for Blur is unknowable, but if it is, they end on a note that provides clear evidence of a new peak, a new high that they pushed for. Somehow they hit it and peaked in the post-heyday environment. Tracks like The Rabbi will not set the world on fire for the passing listener, but for those who hold Blur near and dear to their heart, this will be a monumental burst of passion from a band displaying buckets of it now.