Review: Damon Albarn – Everyday Robots
Published on May 7th, 2014 | Jonny Abrams
We’re just going to come right out with it and say that Everyday Robots, Damon Albarn’s first studio album to be released under his own name, is a bloody triumph.
That it’s also the most ‘English-sounding’ stuff he’s done in some time undoubtedly contributes – Englishness is not necessarily a desirable quality in music, but Albarn has always worn it so well. Yes, like Ray Davies.
The opening title track of Everyday Robots reveals itself as more lushly symphonic with each listen – it’s crinkly, crumply percussive bones are infused with much richness, aided by the kind of open, expansive production that made Blur’s last (admittedly Coxonless – well, mostly) LP Think Tank so dazzling.
And how about that sorrowful twiddly string sample? Dead haunting, that is.
“Hostiles” glows and shimmers as it clacks and lopes in swathes of reverb, dotted with dissonant synth for good measure, while the sublimely singalongable “Lonely Press Play” starts off reminding of “Gene By Gene”.
Most nostalgically Albarnish of all is the ‘breezy fun with a lyrical narrative of disillusion’ that is “Mr Tembo”, something that sounds like he’s had it up his sleeve since the mid-’90s. Ensuing mini-instrumental “Parakeet” is also delightful.
More irresistible luxuriousness is provided by “The Selfish Giant”, whose “I had a dream you were leaving / It’s hard to be a lover when the TV’s on” chorus refrain is every bit as dreamy as the beautiful jazzy tinkles of piano which also distinguish proceedings.
The Brian Eno featuring “You & Me” is sublimely mournful, like “Mellow Song” remixed by FC Kahuna (remember them?) and with mention of “a hole in Westbourne Grove”. It then welcome steel drum on board and winds up sounding oddly/amazingly like a cross between The Flaming Lips and Bilal.
Along with its myriad other strengths, Everyday Robots is subtly eclectic beneath Albarn’s gorgeously weathered croon – “Hollow Ponds” sounds kinda Radiohead-y, like “Exit Music” as filtered through Parklife, whereas “Photographs You Are Taking Now” could have come from Boards of Canada had they been really influenced by The Beatles and Talk Talk (who knows, maybe they were).
Next up is the sophisticated balladry cast in shroomy purple twilight of “The History of a Cheating Heart” – we’ve already used the word ‘dreamy’ in this review, but this one is unbelievably dreamy – before the album is brought to a rousing close with the Leytonstone City Mission Choir featuring “Heavy Seas of Love”, which is sort of like a livelier version of White Album closer “Good Night”.
Stunning success for debut solo Albarn, then – he may rub some up the wrong way, but musically the man is an enduring class act.
Everyday Robots is out now on Parlophone.
Rocksucker says: Four and a Half Quails out of Five!