Does Damon Albarn have anything left to tell us?
He’s put out seven studio albums with Blur, four with artist Jamie Hewlett riding shotgun as Gorillaz, and released four side-project records (an African travelogue, an English pop supergroup record, an exploration of aftro-beat, and even an opera).
It’ s a legitimate question to ask. While Albarn has assembled a famously prolific and collaborative pop career, April’s Everyday Robots will be his first legitimate solo record. Curious, no?
Perhaps he needed to put a few lingering questions to rest first: In 2012, Blur reunited and released new material for the first time in nine years, but production on a new album was scrapped. In the fall of 2013, Albarn began collaborating with Noel Gallagher–to the disgust of Daily Mail and Oasis fans everywhere.
Now that it’s peacetime on the BBC, perhaps it’s time for some new material.
The new album’s lead single (and accompanying music video of the same name) covers some familiar Albarn themes: disenchantment with modern life and technology’s mindlessness:
We’re everyday robots in control,
In the process of being souls.
Driving in adjacent cars,
‘Til we press ‘restart.’
While these themes can be heard from Blur’s Modern Life is Rubbish through Gorillaz’ Plastic Beach, they’re ideas that might be even more resonant today. Nothing seems stale about what he’s saying.
Musically, producer Richard Russell and Albarn use the repetition of looped strings and slow, rhythmic African percussion to paint the picture of an automated ‘robotic’ society. The track prominently features spoken word from Lord Buckley’s Cabenza De Gasca… the Gasser (a technique also used throughout Russell’s collaboration with Gil Scott-Heron, I’m New Here).
Add in the colorful visuals of Albarn literally being cranially mapped and pieced together and it’s a successful mix. One that indicates the 45-year old musician might have a few things left to say after all.
We’re still listening, Damon.
Everyday Robots will be available as a digital download, CD and 12″ vinyl.
The full track listing is:
1) Everyday Robots
3) Lonely Press Play
4) Mr Tembo
6) The Selfish Giant
7) You And Me
8) Hollow Ponds
9) Seven High
10) Photographs (You Are Taking Now)
11) The History Of A Cheating Heart
12) Heavy Seas Of Love