Damon Albarn - Everyday Robots

by Lawrence Poole Rating:8 Release Date:2014-04-28

And so the Pied Piper of British music is, for once, all alone – in name anyway. Twenty-five years of writing, recording and performing under a range of monikers with such luminaries as Graham Coxon, Shaun Ryder, Paul Simonon, Bobby Womack and Tony Allen – it’s been quite the journey.

And yet, arguably Colchester’s finest ever export remains something of an enigma, voraciously creative and a tireless worker he maybe – but there’s no doubt the 46-year-old is a man who likes to keep his private life (and skeletons in his closest) close to his chest. While he is well within his rights to do so, it is refreshing to hear snippets about the ‘inner Damon’, here on his first official solo LP.

It’s a release full of the mid-life melancholy, reflection and weight of experiences you would expect from someone well into his fifth decade. Beautifully crafted, with a range of instruments garnered from his armoury of collaborations – on first listen it sounds like the kind of dour, late-night affair a world-weary, heart-broken soul might wallow in. But there’s light among that shade and this Richard Russell-produced release improves with every listen.

The now familiar title track lays down the foundations well, with the Blur frontman’s instantly recognisable vocals ushering in the album in lovelorn fashion. Dark, moody and plaintive, 'Hostiles' follows in similarly sombre mood, while 'Lonely Press Play' also exposes and confirms the solitude Albarn finds and seeks in music. Thankfully, light relief is provided by the jaunty 'Mr Tembo', which features Leytonstone's Pentecostal City Mission Church Choir in joyous voice.

Bat for Lashes Natasha Khan swoops in to provide her customary dreamy vocals on the lovely 'Selfish Giant', qhile old stomping grounds are recreated nostalgically in 'Hollows Ponds' and synth lord Brian Eno adds lashings of keyboards to the atmospheric and layered 'You & Me' and the riotous finale, 'Heavy Seas of Love'.

It’s a stark and bare release from the polymath, which goes a long way to explaining just why he’s a man who needs the power and work ethic music provides to sate his soul and keep loneliness at bay. The clamour inevitably will now be for more Blur material – and thanks to the quality of their Record Store Day, releases rightly so – but with such yearning beauty as premiered here, there’s more to mine from the solo quarry just yet.

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