Damon Albarn, Everyday Robots - album review
Albarn's new release is his most personal and revealing album to date
For his next trick, Britain’s most protean popsmith turns his attention not to Chinese opera, cartoon rock band or Elizabethan polymath, but to... himself.
Everyday Robots is Damon Albarn’s most personal and revealing album, in which he scans back through memories of his childhood and adolescence to offer an intriguing, if slightly sad, musical self-portrait.
The Lord Buckley quote which opens it – “they didn’t know where they was going, but they knew where they was wasn’t it” – reflects both Albarn’s restless musical imagination, and his youthful peregrination between Leytonstone and Essex.
The journey swings between urban-cosmopolitan and rural-English, the divergent poles of a personality that enables him to stand alongside quintessentially English songwriters such as Ray Davies.
But rather than his cheery pop muse, the arrangements reveal the melancholy in his memories of swimming in a Leytonstone pond, travelling America on a tourbus or wandering through Notting Hill after the Carnival.
Pastel melodies of simple piano figures are set to glitchy percussion loops, found sounds and poignant strings, with glimpses of wistful harmonium, flugelhorn or swirling synth, while Albarn revisits his childhood home to find the street he lived in now truncated by the M11 link road, or frets about the way that machines insert themselves between us: “We are everyday robots on our phones... looking like standing stones, out there on our own.”
The only moment of outright jollity arrives on “Mr Tembo”, a ukulele-driven song about a baby elephant: fittingly, the gospel choir bringing uplift to its chorus is from the church at the end of his Leytonstone road.
It’s a rare moment of extrovert cheer on an intimate, introspective album that takes tentative steps to reveal the soul behind the star.
GlastonburyWI to make debut appearance at Somerset festival
TV reviewIt has taken seven episodes for Game of Thrones season five to hit its stride
FilmPalme d'Or goes to radical and astonishing film that turns conventional thinking about immigrants on its head
Potter's attempt to create an Essex Taj Mahal was a lovely treattv
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Cyclist who knocked down three-year-old girl says his life has been 'destroyed'
- 2 Chelsea victory parade: Chelsea mocked on Twitter as 'tens of fans' pack the streets of London
- 3 US warned by Chinese media to stop meddling or 'war will be inevitable'
- 4 Woman, 21, dies after taking contraceptive pill that 'caused fatal blood clot'
- 5 Isis burns woman alive for refusing to engage in 'extreme' sex act, UN says
Stolen Instagram photo sells for $90,000
The New York Times sparks criticism after releasing an all-white reading list
Glastonbury lineup 2015: The Women's Institute to make debut appearance at Somerset festival
Dheepan, film review: Palme d'Or prize goes to radical and astonishing film that turns conventional thinking about immigrants on its head
Game of Thrones, The Gift, Season 5, Episode 7: Why two of the show’s most iconic characters just met
As a white man, I'm surprised more women aren't tweeting the hashtag #KillAllWhiteMen
Scotland may have to leave the EU even if it votes to stay in, David Cameron confirms
The day that Britain resigned as a global power
SNP fury as HS2 finds 'no business case' for taking fast train service to Scotland
EU referendum: David Cameron's rules are a 'democratic disgrace', says French-born Scottish politician set to be denied a vote
A nation of inequality: How the UK is failing to feed its most vulnerable people