Rarely does a human being get a full look into another's soul, but when it happens, assuredly it becomes a life changing moment. Nothing matches the pure emotion seen in the opening up of the human mind and its dark secrets. With this spectacle, Damien Rice releases his B-sides collection as a glimpse into the darkest reaches of his soul, and shows a truer, more explicit Damien Rice than his debut album O shows.
The collection contains mostly live recordings, nearly half of it being alternate versions of songs on the album. Despite the recordings being live, they are great quality and obviously selected with a lot of scrutiny. Unlike O many songs on this collection are just Damien and his faint acoustic. Unlike many singer/songwriters today, Damien knows how to put on a live show, instead of trying to recreate the studio version of the songs he sings. Lisa Hannigan, his seemingly permanent vocal partner, joins in on a few songs. His guitar playing never shows any signs of a mistake on the album, remaining excellent throughout the entire album. If there are any other instruments in the song, they sit in the background, allowing the star of the show, Damien, take center stage.
The album starts excellently, with The Professor/La Fille Danse. Starting with extremely faint guitar and Damien singing immediately with no intro, it's obvious that this collection shows a new side of Damien. The lyrics on this song are fantastic, singing about a failed relationship and looking into why it failed. The song picks up energy throughout, something Damien does in many of his songs. Full chords are strummed in the chorus, yet still tentatively. The second verse is a bit stronger, but still brought down from the capitulation of the chorus. The song picks up energy in the prechorus, finally reaching the climax in the chorus. Damien releases it by dropping out the guitar and going into his falsetto, a technique he has mastered, but he isn't done yet, he has one last swell. After a "HELL I don't know", the song goes down even fainter than the opening. The La Fille Danse section comes after a third verse. Damien starts singing in French, and then the song enters a ¾ waltz feel. Continually, the waltz picks up strength, slowly approaching full chords. The song finishes on a strong chord, about as epic as an acoustic song can get.
The next standout, Woman like a Man, is the most explicit song on the album. This song takes Damien, Lisa, a drum set and cello and makes a powerful and true song. Starting with just Damien and some low voiced guitar chords, he starts with confidence right away. The song enters the chorus and the drums and bass enters. The explicit chorus sings with lyrics like "You wanna get boned, you wanna get stoned, you wanna a room like no one else." Lisa harmonizes with him halfway through the chorus. Obviously, the song is singing about a woman who has the perversions of a man. Lisa sings faintly under Damien throughout the second verse and stays with him for most of the song. The entire song has a dirty and gritty feel. If the song wasn't Damien Rice, it could pass as an acoustic version of a rock song. After the second chorus, a cello takes a solo, before taking everything out except the cello and the high-hat, with both singers singing the chorus in their falsetto. In the outro, Lisa sings some alternate lyrics over Damien's "Woman like a man". The band jams over this for about a minute, and the song abruptly ends.
A hidden gem on the album is the instrumental version of Volcano. Volcano, the poppiest and most accessible song on O, is given a whole new feel without the singers to take the stage. The song is taken much more up-tempo and brings in electric guitar for the intro riff. The verse's main melodic line is a bassline outlining the chord progression in power chords. A violin countermelody accompanies the electric guitar line, making a rush of sound to dominate the listener's ears. After a few verses and choruses, everything drops out except for the string section, taking a beautiful feature. Then the whole song comes down with a palm muted version of the guitar riff and restrained drums. The band continually builds until reaching a climax with the strings melody adding back in. The song continues to swell before abruptly ending on a guitar slide down the fretboard.
All in all, this album is a great counterpart to O, and shows a whole new side of Damien Rice that could certainly become present in his later releases. The young Irishman shows great promise in his musical career and could certainly make commercial success while still maintaining the quality of this collection.
The Professor/La Fille Danse
Woman like a Man
Delicate (Live in Dublin)