Monday, 1 September 2014
Producers Damon Albarn, Brian Eno
There are precious few musicians in the game today who can really claim to be among rock-royalty. With a career spanning a good 25 years, and some of the most celebrated songs produced during that time credited to his name, Damon Albarn has surely earned that right.
Albarn is widely known as the frontman of iconic Britpop band Blur, and more recently as the founder and principal creative force behind the chart conquering Gorillaz project. It would take all day to list just some of the world famous tunes he has written as part of those two acts, but what impresses most is simply the breadth of his work, delving into an incredible range of different genres, and inventing whole new ones. This chameleonic nature and distinctive vocal qualities have often earned Albarn comparisons to another British great, David Bowie, and as time passes it's a comparison that seems ever more apt.
It's somewhat of a landmark event in British music then for Albarn to be releasing his first album as a solo artist, Everyday Robots, and true to form it's almost nothing like anything Albarn has done before.
While a wide gulf can be drawn between the spangly Britpop of Blur and Gorillaz's more club-focused dance music, Albarn has always put distance between the musician and the person. Both bands are known for radio-friendly pop, with subjects ranging from the environment to general life in London. With his first solo work, Albarn has delved much deeper into his own mind to bring us his most intimate music yet.
Everyday Robots strikes a more downbeat and introspective tone. Albarn lays bare his demons and explores his own troubled past with drug addictions, relationships and insecurity. The result is something more revelatory than revolutionary.
Without doubt the highlight of the album comes in the stunning double-sided track You and Me. The opening "you" segment begins in chasteningly paranoid fashion, brutal and demoralizing, before breaking down with a flurry of steel drums into the gorgeously cathartic "me" section. Absolutely incredible.
Elsewhere the quality remains high with the beautifully nostalgic Hostiles, delicately acoustic and hauntingly sparse, while The Selfish Giant is a dazzingly lovely opine on narcissism and loneliness in the digital age.
The trouble with Everyday Robots is that it is too relentless. It's all very dark, and melancholic, and introspective. While some of the songs are absolutely brilliant, others are much less memorable, and the relentless drudgery of it all makes sitting through the entire album hard work. From Albarn we have come to expect variety, but with his debut solo album the listener is forced very single-mindedly through his worst nightmares. The music may be brilliant, but like Schindler's List it's the sort of classic you may want to listen to once and then only sparingly after. Have a listen, pick out the key songs and cherish them, but you won't stick around for the rest.
Must Listen :
You and Me
The Selfish Giant