Review Summary: Albarn has finally decided to step out of the shadows and deliver his most personal collection of tracks to date.
I started listening to Gorillaz right around the time I got into music as kid. Linkin Park was a big deal to me at the time, becoming something of a gateway drug from the classic rock my dad had gotten me into and some of the more contemporary genres like hip-hop and electronic music. I recall seeing the video for “Clint Eastwood” play during my afternoon obligations to Cartoon Network’s “Toonami” block. It was a fun animated spectacle that stuck with me not just for the visual elements but the music behind them. It opened me up to the possibilities of mixing animation with music and creating a real-life persona behind all of it.
Damon Albarn has come a long way since then. With Everyday Robots
, Albarn has finally decided to step out of the shadows and deliver his most personal collection of tracks to date. What results is a hodgepodge of electronic dub music, tribal soundscapes, Caribbean pop, and classical elements all married into one package. If that description seems all over the board to you, it most certainly is. But Everyday Robots
sounds like the perfect culmination of Damon Albarn’s career thus far. It is a starkly intimate affair, both sullen and forlorn. And one that Albarn himself describes as “empty club music.”
The album opens with the title track, a track that laments our societies’ obsession with technology and our often fruitless, complacent occupations. “We are everyday robots on our phones / In the process of getting old…” he sings over a simultaneous arrangement of strings, somber piano notes, and African drum rhythms. The themes, while not necessarily groundbreaking, are sung with a believable passion that is no less pertinent, despite his forays into digital culture with Gorillaz. The next song, “Hostiles” is a gorgeous meandering into the darkest thoughts of Albarn’s subconscious. It documents the moment when all of your fears and regrets dominate your mind and there is no lie you can tell yourself to quell them. The fourth track, “Mr. Tembo”, is both the literal and metaphorical elephant in the room (Tembo being Swahili for elephant). The song is both sonically and contextually out of place on record and is a jarring addition to a collection of mostly solemn tracks. It’s hard not to enjoy its catchy chorus for its own merits. But heard here it is most-identifiably the album’s weakest link.
The rest of the album plays out in similar fashion to the first three tracks. “Selfish Giant” is the obligatory failed relationship track, “You and Me” reveals Albarn’s brief heroin stint backed by some instrumentation by the legendary Brian Eno. “Hollow Ponds” showcases Albarn’s life in a series of moments, including the inspiration behind Blur’s “Modern Life is Rubbish.” “Heavy Seas of Love” ends the album on a positive note however, highlighting the optimism (or potential for optimism anyway) of the man and his passion for life itself, however rubbish it may sometimes seem.
Thanks to Albarn's knack for meshing instrumental styles and a competently pretty singing voice, Everyday Robots
contains songs that should please fans of pretty much all of his previous efforts. This is undeniably the album he’s been dying to make for some time now. It would seem that, for now anyway, Damon Albarn has exorcised some of his demons.