Damon Albarn: Dr. Dee (Virgin) | Under the Radar - Music Magazine

Damon Albarn

Dr. Dee

Virgin

May 07, 2012 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share


There's something noble about Dr. Dee, Damon Albarn's latest passion project, a mostly folk record about 16th-century British mathematician and occultist John Dee. Albarn's desire to rescue a critical historical figure (Dee served as advisor to Elizabeth I and once owned perhaps the greatest library in England) from relative obscurity is certainly commendable. As a piece of music, however, the operatic folk of Dr. Dee doesn't leave much of an impression.

The greatest gift Albarn could have given Dee would have been to write songs that not only captured the essence of the man but the ears of the listener. There isn't one song on Dr. Dee that forces its way into the world the way something like "Feel Good, Inc." or "Parklife" did. Albarn has specialized in pop songs that worm their way into the brain and stick around for long enough to sell a few million copies.

One might argue it's silly to compare a piece of pop music with an album that aspires to be something more, and it is. But wondering why Albarn doesn't import more of his pop sensibility into the creation of Dr. Dee when the album appears to go out of its way to avoid any type of hook or chorus seems a worthwhile discussion. (The closest he comesand it almost feels like he can't help himselfis the hand-clapped "Marvelous Dream.") There doesn't appear to be an answer, though Albarn's recent announcement that both Blur (Albarn's beloved original band that reconnected for a by-most-accounts successful reunion tour) and Gorillaz may have made their last music together offers a hint: maybe Damon Albarn is just tired of pop music, of the rigid structures and trappings of the industry. If that's the case, then a largely instrumental folk record about a mathematician who has been dead for five centuries would be a good tack to take. (www.myspace.com/damonalbarn)

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