Damon Albarn's Everyday Robots: What You Need To Know
Blur, Gorillaz, The Good, The Bad and The Queen, Rocket Juice and The Moon… Damon Albarn has been making music under a variety of different guises for more than two decades, but this week he releases an album under his own name for the first time. So what’s it like? Here’s everything you need to know…
What’s the background?
Having spent the last few years working on opera projects like Monkey: Journey to the West, based on Wu Cheng-en’s 16th century novel, and Doctor Dee, fans may have been hoping for a new Gorillaz album, or even a new Blur record. However, reports had surfaced that all was not well in the Gorillaz camp after a reported bust-up with co-creator Jamie Hewlett over the live shows for the Plastic Beach tour, while back in 2012 it emerged that early sessions recording new Blur material had been abandoned after producer William Orbit leaked details of the sessions on Twitter. Albarn has since stated that a new Gorillaz album is now a distinct possibility - as is an unlikely collaboration with Noel Gallagher - but in the meantime he’s been working with Bobby Womack as a producer and writing material for a solo album.
Who’s producing it?
Although he’s a capable producer in his own right, for Everyday Robots Albarn has enlisted the help of XL Recordings head honcho Richard Russell, with whom he worked as co-producer for Bobby Womack’s 2012 album The Bravest Man in the Universe, as co-producer for the new record.
Any special guests?
Just a couple, in the form of Bat for Lashes’ Natasha Khan, who appears on ‘The Selfish Giant‘, and Brian Eno who appears on ‘You and Me‘ as well as contributing backing vocals on the album’s closer ‘Heavy Seas of Love’ alongside the Leytonstone City Mission Choir.
What are the standout tracks?
‘Mr. Tembo’ is one of the more upbeat tracks on the record and is clearly influenced by some of the African music projects he’s been working on in recent years, with its Afrobeat-influenced percussion and blue-eyed melody, while the downtempo title track is a brooding lament on our relationship with technology which, along with nostalgia, is a recurrent theme on the album. Elsewhere the closing salvo ‘Heavy Seas of Love’ is one of the album’s highlights, along with the Timothy Leary-sampling ‘Photographs (You Are Taking Now)’, inspired by a solar eclipse, and the Specials-influenced ‘Lonely Press Play’.
Does it deliver?
Damon Albarn must rank as one of the most prolific songwriter’s we have produced in recent years and as artist he has so many facets that each new musical project seems like an outlet for a different aspect of his personality. With that being the case it was difficult to anticipate what sort of album this might be, but overall the mood is contemplative and reflective. It’s not as upbeat as a Gorillaz record, which isn’t surprising, but despite the downtempo feel throughout much of the album, it’s intricate percussion, inventive arrangements and heartfelt lyrics make for a beautifully poised record that showcases Albarn’s broad range of musical influences and his abilty to weave them into contemporary pop songs. The only question now is what Damon Albarn will do next...