29 April 2014

Damon Albarn - Everyday Robots

Now before I start I have to rehash a bit of old history which has been outlined in pervious blogs.  I am not a Damon Albarn fan, first few Blur albums were fine (I still have a fondness for 'Modern Life Is Rubbish'), then came 'Parklife' and 'The Great Escape' came and I started to developed an irrational (but well founded) hatred which focused on Mr Albarn.  The self titled album didn't help matters to be honest and when they announced their hiatus after the much better 'Think Tank' I was sort of cheered up.  However there have been other projects to keep him busy, all of which have had various degrees of success and over the years I have made peace with myself and my dislike of some aspects of Mr Albarn's discography.  But early on in the year I was advised of a new album coming, now normally I would have asked one of the other people on the blog team to review the album as I am not the most balanced person for this type of blog; but I must admit I was a little curious to see if my views had changed at all over the years.  So keep the above in mind whilst reading this, I will state now I will try my best not to make this as balanced a blog as possible.....

Starting with the title track it is all strange timing, off key violins and with Albarn bemusing the world and making a mirror to shine on humanity and how stuck in recurring patterns we have became.  As an album opening it is not an instant classic that will grab the Blur 90's generation, but that is not who Albarn is aiming for anymore.  I am also quite glad that the mock cockney accent is no longer there, it is a very unsettling and strange opening as I am enjoying it.  Next is "Hostiles" which is another slice of empty dark pop; all the time I am listening to this album I am drawn to how much is sounds like a less chaotic Thomas Truax (also less fun as well if I am honest).  It is a million miles away from the popular era Blur of the Brit-pop era.  "Lonely Press Play" is next and continues the dark and twist path; to be honest I was surprised that up till now there had not been a more cheery number.  It is without light, pity or humour; "Lonely Press Play" is a redemption piece for me.  It is one of the most engaging works I have heard from Mr Albarn and it does my twisted black heart good to hear something that does not make me want to smash everything up upon hearing his voice.

"Mr Tembo" is a little more cheerful, with a reggae guitar and a story about Mr Tembo and his adventures.  It is a change that was needed to be honest, unless Mr Albarn wanted the audience to hang themselves.  It is not a song I would put on out of choice, but again I do not dislike it to be honest.  "Parakeet" follows which is a short interlude which is neither important nor useful, but moving on.  "The Selfish Giant" brings back the album proper with a bass and piano opening and soft strings floating in the background; adding a scratch and drum beat and you have quite possibly one of the gloomiest songs I have heard this year.  With backing vocals supplied from Natasha Khan of Bat For Lashes, it is a dark tale about a dream of a relationship ending, full of regret and dread.  As good as the song is I felt a shiver of relief when it was over as the world seemed a little brighter for the song being over. This is a compliment by the way, it is that desolate that it makes the world happier when it is ended.

"You & Me" is next, it is the longest track of the album and has a strange story narrative again; but it seems like a more twisted and haunted number than the rest that have gone before.  This track for me is the best thing on offer on the album; it reminds me of a minimalist Malcolm McLaren number and has a sort of post rock feel.  The steel pans and empty working of the music make this an almost unbearably devastating piece of work which I should hate, but I am truly in awe of the work. Damm you Damon!!!! "Hallow Ponds" continues this reflective theme and the addition of a strange choir makes for a more uneasy feeling and it seems as if this album is morphing into Damon's attempt at matching Nick Cave in the dark and vulnerable song writing theatre.  Whilst it is no competitions for the Bad Seeds, it is still another moment which is attempting something different and is surprising.  Next is another interlude in the form of "Seven High", so we will move swiftly on to the next song.

"Photographs (You Are Taking Now)" is the next song starts off with Albarn and other vocals in vocal only movement, merging into another trip hop laced movement that would not be out of place on a Massive Attack record from the 2000's.  There is still the awful feeling that it is all about to go wrong but so far I am being proven wrong.  "This History Of  A Cheating Heart" is heartbreaking and beautiful acoustic number, but is still about a cheating smuck who could not keep it in their pants.  This track was really close to being the album top choice for me and I cannot believe how good a piece of work this is.  Ending the album is "Heavy Seas Of Love" which has guest vocals by Brian Eno; this track is a wave of fun at the end and is a blessed relief to be honest.  A strange and catchy number that had me singing out loud which I would not have expected when I started this review.  It bring the mood up and ends the album perfectly.

Well time for the verdict to be delivered - it would seem that hell has finally frozen over.  I was ready to slice into this album with a fine tooth comb and cut it to pieces, but I cannot do that.  I was ready to mock it like a bad comedian with a limited time slot on BBC TV, but I cannot do that.  This album is a dark slice of the soul which I would not have expected to hear from this man.  There are a few things I would change (get rid of the interludes and not too keen on Mr Tembo), but other than that it is a really, really good album.  I have always said I will praise when praise is deserved and as much as it pains me to say this, I do feel that I have heard a contender for album of the year.  Yes, Eddie Carter - the man who dislikes Blur an awful lot has just said that he expects this to be up there in the album of the year chart.  Hell is experiencing winter conditions.....

9 out of ten - Almost perfect, Almost.....(DAMM YOU ALBARN)

Top Track - You & Me

You can purchase the album from amazon here

You can visit the Damon Albarn website here

You can listen to the album on Spotify here

For our Deezer user's, here is a link for you

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