If Oasis mined the deep inspirational seam of the Beatles, then blur's new album burrows deep into Bowie territory, most especially evident on Thought I Was a Spaceman, which leans very heavily towards The Thin White Duke's post-apocalyptic commentary on Diamond Dogs while the hurdy gurdy merriment of Pyongyang recalls David's Hunky Dory days. Not that this provenance is a bad thing, far from it, the comparison is meant a compliment. Damon Albarn's voice has reached a maturity and richness that puts him up there with one of the British music scene's all-time greats.

There are a couple of brief blips such as the happy clappy opener Lonesome Street and blur's statutory comic song, Ice Cream Man. Where cheeky chappy humour worked so well in the quirky days of Britpop with Park Life, it was somewhat strained with Country House and now, for me at least, my patience with the East End tub-thumping, barrel-rolling, crowd-pleasers has finally run out. 

But now for the good bits. The melancholy rough and tumble of New World Towers and There are Too Many of Us succinctly sum up the state of broken Britain. 

I Broadcast, Go Out and My Terracotta Heart have clever percussive turns, industrial rhythms and manufactured beats spooling straight from the factory floor. It's not all that curious perhaps then that the album was conceived sound first and lyrics second - in our mass produced, shiny packaged world what else would you expect?

Thankfully, The Magic Whip also stokes the furnace of our long-standing whimsical love affair with the exotic East. From the neon-lit front cover, the Chinese characters, the drawings of warriors, tigers and monkeys, ancient gods and modern propaganda to the cherry blossom trees in bloom - it all adds to Europe's individual (and collective) obsession with the opulent Orient. Of course now it is as much about sky bars, overpopulation and hi-rises as it is about willow pattern, snow-capped mountains and jade seas, but there is enough tropical warmth here to keep us afloat for a long while yet. 

The band headlines on Saturday, June 20 as part of Barclaycard presents British Summer Time Hyde Park. Details: www.bst-hydepark.com
The Magic Whip is out now. Album available on CD, vinyl and as a digital download.