Apr 28, 2014 Web Exclusive
It's hard to believe 20 years have passed since Britpop turned the U.K.'s music scene on its head. In the following two decades, many of the movement's mainstays have either accepted defeat and returned to their day jobs or tried to rekindle their burned-out careers through shambolic reunions.
Yes, it's safe to say the passage of time has not been kind to many of Britpop's protagonists. But in the case of Damon Albarn, the ticking clock has proved rather more sympathetic. Since his Parklife days, the almost-former Blur frontman has transformed from hedonistic indie kid into a brilliant musical visionary with a Midas touch to rival Pharrell.
While his Gorillaz venture will likely be the most commercially successful years of his career, he's since worked with a spectrum of musicians from across the globe, creating a swath of boundary-pushing sounds. Oddly, in all that time, he's only now got round to releasing his first solo album—but given the breadth and scale of Everyday Robots, the wait was more than worth it.
Creaking to an ever-present shuffle of melancholic beats and elaborate effects, this album is as horizon-hopping as we've come to expect from someone who can mingle as freely with hip-hop royalty as he can with Mali folk artists. Yet, where in the past he's chosen to retain an element of distance from listeners, the deeply emotive mosaics such as "Hollow Ponds" or the majestic "Lonely Press Play" are as frank and confessional as Albarn's been in years. And they're all the better for it.
Musically, there's an intelligence that extends way beyond the churning indie anthems of Albarn's youth. "Photographs (You Are Taking Now)" is a subtle slow burner that's almost untraceable until its tender keys are caressing the inside of your ear canals. Likewise, the gospel-tinted "Heavy Seas of Love"—one of two collaborations with Brian Eno—comes across as an achingly simple lament, belying the complex tapestry of twinkling melody that sits beneath.
After 20 years it seems strange to say, but Damon Albarn may finally have put the ghosts of his Britpop past to rest. Woo hoo indeed. (www.damonalbarnmusic.com)
Author rating: 8/10
Average reader rating: 8/10