Damon Albarn: Everyday Robots
In many ways Everyday Robots is the last word on the great Blur-vs-Oasis debate. Back when Damon Albarn was writing drivel such as Country House, it seemed that Noel Gallagher was the more progressive in terms of songwriting. But while the Oasis man has stayed more or less in the same groove, Albarn has gone on to write stage adaptations of medieval Chinese novels, delved into African fusion music, and written a concept album about an Elizabethan era mathematician and occultist. And with Gorillaz he has dived deep into a rock/dub/soul hybrid.
The mood and tone of Everyday Robots is informed by the sublime Melancholy Hill, Gorillaz’s best song. The album is pointedly autobiographical, as Albarn looks back without anger at his urban/rural childhood, delves into early Blur tour diaries, and brings us for a spin around significant (for him) London landmarks. There’s more than bit of ennui thrown in as well. It’s a definite album of the year contender.
The title track sets out Albarn’s musical stall – plaintive piano runs, muted looped percussion beats and vocals sung in the key of resigned. Hostilities sounds a bit too close for comfort to the ignored but very brilliant Beth Gibbons/Rustin Man song Mysteries, but there the quibbles end. Lonely Press Play is one of the best things Albarn has ever written; it’s an unlikely anthem that could have been titled Modern Life Is Still Rubbish.
Mr Tembo is the only anomaly here, happy, upbeat and more than a bit out of step. But the remaining eight songs are glorious in execution and intent. Even if it does seem like Albarn has selected musical instrumentation according to how sad it sounds, there’s a graciousness to tracks such as Hollow Ponds, with its calendar-style lyrics.
This subtle and subdued album can be compared (only on the surface) to the width and depth of Massive Attack’s classic Blue Lines. We used to laugh when, during the beered-up height of Britpop, Albarn was compared to Ray Davies. We’re not laughing now.
Download: Everyday Robots, Hostilities, Lonely Press Play, Heavy Seas of Love