Damien Rice
9


3.0
good

Review

by Dr Dave De Sylvia STAFF
November 6th, 2006 | 26 replies


Release Date: 2006 | Tracklist


Not a lot of people know this, but Damien Rice used to go by the ridiculous pseudonym ‘Dodi Ma,’ a name he invented from a language he made up.

Crazy? Seriously. He probably doesn’t like people mentioning it.

9, the suitably succinct follow-up to O, demonstrates that he hasn’t really got an awful lot better at naming things, especially when you consider the rejected titles: A Hen Will Sit On An Unfertilized Egg and You Love Her, You Even Love The Shit You Hate About Her. Still, O is at least an understated title, in direct contrast to the music on the record, giving little away and imposing nothing. Giving his next album the title 9 seems slightly laboured, but it’s vague enough to achieve its purpose.

Dodi was, in the late nineties, the frontman of Juniper, one of the many “next U2s” that have emerged from the Irish music scene since the ‘80s, only to burn out or fade away. Juniper were the real deal, with a sound that took in the Stone Roses and U2 but cleverly sidestepped the “arsehole singer” clause and with live shows that were as famous for who was attending as they were for the performance. Damien left Juniper shortly before recording their first album, disillusioned with pressure from the label to water down his songwriting, and split to travel Europe. Juniper left behind only a handful of recorded songs, including ‘Spaceship’ (better known as ‘Amie’), ‘Volcano’ and ‘Eskimo.’ Drummer Paul Noonan replaced Dodi as vocalist and Juniper became Bell X1; both Rice and Bell X1 recorded a number of Juniper tracks on subsequent releases (both recorded ‘Volcano’), but it was 2002’s O that finally justified all the hype Juniper had generated.

Why is Juniper so important? Well, O as an album, and the Damien Rice sound as a whole (‘Damien Rice’ is, in fact, a five-piece band including singer Lisa Hannigan and cellist Vyvienne Long, both solo artists in their own right), is a reaction to the failure of Juniper. Juniper were the quintessential rock band: loud, arrogant and abrasive, with the skills to back it up. O was anything but- recorded at home, it’s instrumentally nuanced, extremely compact and reliant on the very natural sort of volume dynamic created by the voice and other acoustic instruments. At points, Rice sounds as if he’s whispering in the listener’s ear, while at other times sounds distant and lost. And it’s this element to his music that draws so many in, while repelling many more; like many great works of art, it success is based solely upon drawing extreme emotional reactions, both good and bad.

The problem, however, is how to follow it up? An album like O is, by its nature, a once-off; to reproduce it would be to cheapen the original and to vindicate the original’s detractors. 9 definitely distinguishes itself from O, although it’s arguable whether it’s an actual progression, but more importantly it doesn’t sound like a forced change. Certainly, many elements of O are still present, but Damien has found new ways to express himself within the framework of his own music. O, while beautifully written, was at times overly dependent upon the dramatic volume dynamic Damien produces so well; this element of the recording process remains, however it’s no longer a standard feature of every song.

‘Accidental Babies’ is an understated piano-and-vocal track that, in being so bare, demonstrates a marked improvement in Damien’s singing and lyrical ability. Until now Rice’s lyrics have for the most part avoided specificity. ‘Accidental Babies’ is explicitly a lament written by the “other man” in an extra-marital affair and takes the form of a series of questions to his partner: "Do you brush your teeth before you kiss? […] And does he drive you wild? Or just mildly free?” The piano is more prominent on the record; it’s telling that the first two sounds to be heard on 9 are the piano and the voice of Lisa Hannigan (a major concession for any songwriter to make), a clear indication that he’s not a one-trick pony, and wants the listener to know it.

‘9 Crimes’ is the lead single, developing the laid-back French cabaret/music hall theme he began with ‘Cheers Darlin’’ and ‘The Professor (La Fille Danse)’ in the past, and continues with ‘The Animals Were Gone’ and ‘Sleep Don’t Weep.’ The strings are as prominent as ever; subtle and graceful alongside the piano, sharper and more immediate on the acoustic-based tracks. ‘Elephant,’ formerly known as ‘The Blower’s Daughter Part Two,’ is predictably similar to that song, melodically and instrumentally, but reveals entirely contrasting sentiments, containing the repeated line. ” 'Cause I'm lately, horny..” It builds to an unexpectedly chaotic finale, thrilling though it is, containing multiple string parts, vocal samples and even electric guitar.

Of course Damien has expressed anger before, but never on this scale. If O demonstrated Rice’s capacity to express pain, 9 (if only fleetingly) shows Damien actually react to this pain with anger. ‘Rootless Tree,’ which is set to become the album’s first single in the US, is an expletive-ridden rock n’ roll track, more akin to Juniper's wilder material than O folkish charm. The kyrics are blunt and abrasive lyrics, fuelling an anthemic chorus backed by loud, crashing guitars. The chorus call of ”Fuck you, fuck you, fuck you and all that you’ve been through” is bound to shock, but perhaps not as much as the “diary of a sex fiend” ‘Me, My Yoke & I,’ which I hope is self-explanatory. A stay-over from Damien’s Juniper days, it’s been a live favourite for years, but the vaguely psychedelic stadium rocker is too long despite an interesting, groove-based beginning.

Elsewhere, ‘Dogs’ and ‘Coconut Skins’ fit awkwardly in the middle of the album, the latter a whimsical folk song that borrows heavily from Liam Gallagher’s two-chord wonder ‘Songbird’ and, while funny and clever, performs a similar role to ‘Cheers Darlin’’ on O, i.e. that of the momentum killer. Yet 9 never truly builds like O does; it’s fragmented and inconsistent and, ultimately, the whole is never really equal to the sum of its parts. I’m certain that a number of these tracks will go on to be considered classics within the singer’s collection, however 9 is too frustrating at times to ever be considered on a par with its predecessor.

And to all those opposed?

“You can sit on a chimney and put some fire up your ass!”



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user ratings (312)
Chart.
3.6
great
other reviews of this album
Marc Wells (4.5)
In its entirety, 9 proves to be a masterwork. It's haunting and unsettling. It's beautiful and poi...

Ben (3)
Damien Rice continues to make beautiful, melodic music. Unfortunately, his tired self-loathing schti...

Jonathan Kroening (2.5)
With a tendency to sound like an ill-advised sequel to O, Damien Rice's sophomore release is exhaust...

Tyler Fisher EMERITUS (4)
9 is a step forward for Damien in some areas and a step backwards in others. He explores new sounds...


Comments:Add a Comment 
radianteclipse
November 6th 2006


397 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Great review! I found it hard to believe a Damien Rice album could possibly be only 3-worthy, but upon listening to it I can kind of see what you're saying. There are hints of greatness, like Accidental babies for instance, but then you have songs like Sleep Don't Weep that sounds almost exactly the same as Cold Water did on O. I was actually singing that song over top of it and it fit perfectly. That makes me angry.

I know it will grow on me more, because it's Damien Rice and I love him dearly and I will force myself to listen to it an unhealthy amount of times until I like it.

SubtleDagger
November 6th 2006


737 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I don't think it matters if I'm honest here.
The end of this review is unbelievably lame. It reads like something a really irritating out-of-touch hipster would write in a local newspaper to try to be witty, except it is is of course, very very dumb.
The review is well-written though so whatever. This album is pretty much a 4. There's only a few songs I'm not really into and they're only mediocre at worst.

SubtleDagger
November 6th 2006


737 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Okay that explains the glam and the pop fanaticism nevermind -_-

Iai
Emeritus
November 6th 2006


3553 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Seriously though. This record destroys O.

Reflection
November 6th 2006


29 Comments


This is probably the best review I've read on Sputnik. This albums pretty good but it hasn't got me hooked like O did. Still a solid album for what it is though.

Jom
Staff Reviewer
November 6th 2006


2712 Comments


Dammit. I knew one day I was going to hit the delete button instead of the edit button


lol

I did that once on accident; the user hasn't found out yet to this day :o

handsomerob2
November 7th 2006


58 Comments

Album Rating: 1.5

this is an excellently written review. Despite your rating, I am sure im gonna pick this up. I won't get my hopes up though. Thanks for the heads up.

CushMG15
November 7th 2006


1803 Comments


I've still gotta check this out, but I'm really pumped for it. It sounds as tho this album sounds more like his live performance, which are a fair amount edgier than O. And for those interesting and that have a chance to see him...they're also fucking amazing.

Tyler
Emeritus
November 8th 2006


7926 Comments


Amazing review.

I think Damien Rice kind of sucks.

Spamlet
November 9th 2006


1 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Radiant,

"Sleep Don't Weep" isn't a cheap rip-off of "Cold Water", it's clearly intended as a sequel. That'd be like getting angry about "Elephant' being a continuation of "BD" or "Prague" being the coda to "Cheers, Darlin'".

Besides which, I urge you to play the two songs (CW and SDW) simultaneously. You'll be blown away by the level of variation used and their nearly unbearable combined visceral power.


Cocaine,

You've obviously never seen Damien Rice in concert. Best live performer I've ever seen in all my years of concert going. Unreal intensity, intimacy and vulnerability. Personally, I think he's also the best young singer/songwriter of the last 3 decades but I naturally don't expect everyone to agree with that. Sucks is a word I'd reserve for a hack like James Blunt.

The review was actually very poorly written. The writer:

1) spent more than half of the total length avoiding talking about the album he's supposed to be reviewing.

2) got numerous facts wrong (including such simple things as the names of the songs: "Sleep Don't Worry"? WTF!Look at the damned sleeve, "Rootless Tree" was never played by Juniper!!! The repeated line "cause I'm lately horny" is no such thing since it's only sung once in that entire song.

3) Makes sweeping completely unfounded half-assed generalizations like "until now Rice's lyrics have for the most part avoided specificity". Untrue by any reasonable standard. Rather, Mr. Rice often employs great economy in his word choices because they are packed with layers of meaning. In no way does that imply the images aren't remarkably detailed. A simple, uncluttered line like "I'm not a miracle and you're not a saint/ just another soldier on a road to nowhere" is far more evocative, vivid and poetic than at least 95% of what most songwriters of today are capable of expressing. I also don't believe his singing ability "demonstrates marked improvement". If anything, he's needlessly held back here from what made the unbridled emotional longing of "o" so spine-shivering.

3) disregards proper punctuation for entire paragraphs of this review! Hastily written/edited.

4) paraphrases a line from "Coconut Skins" taunting anyone who disgrees with his shallow reasoning that the album isn't a cohesive whole because he has no idea of how to end the review intelligently.

Tyler
Emeritus
November 9th 2006


7926 Comments


Cocaine,



You've obviously never seen Damien Rice in concert. Best live performer I've ever seen in all my years of concert going. Unreal intensity, intimacy and vulnerability. Personally, I think he's also the best young singer/songwriter of the last 3 decades but I naturally don't expect everyone to agree with that. Sucks is a word I'd reserve for a hack like James Blunt.


I wouldnt see an artist I find boring, pretentious and uninteresting in concert, regardless of how passionate he may be for his music.

Isola
November 13th 2006


421 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

If this album is half as good as "O", I will still like it.

CharlieLeek
November 13th 2006


4 Comments


i think if O had never been released this would be a much more popular album. i personally prefer it to O. sure, i found O brill, yet on this one Rice branches out.

both great albums.

Zmev
November 26th 2006


983 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

This is pretty good. Rootless Tree is great

girlwithnorythm
November 27th 2006


4 Comments


I can hear what you're saying. I listened to it the last night...annd it's just not that...wow.....some songs are good but others lack something to make it seem good to me.

geilmaxi
November 29th 2006


2 Comments


You are entitled to your opinion about the album, but I would like to bring up talk about your take on Accidental Babies. I for one do not in any way see this song as the other man of an affair. Did you read the lyrics or even listen thoughtfully to the song? It is quite honestly the yearnings of the man of a now broken up couple that hurts to be back with the love of his life. The song is one of the most painful, beautiful, emotionally real songs I have ever heard.

geilmaxi
December 4th 2006


2 Comments


The same as it is in the song. Whatever led the two of them to breaking up in the first place should not overwhelm the love he feels the two of them may have and if he is right in that they are the ones for each other they should stop playing with fire by being with other people (accidental babies) and return to the love they once had.

:-)

FA
December 24th 2006


127 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I like this album..he's great. Good review too.

bird
January 25th 2007


1 Comments


I'm agreeing with the interpretation of "accidental babies" as the man in an extramarital or extrarelational affair. The line "we ignored our others" suggests this more than an old relationship. However, having been the woman in such a situation, maybe it just fits my situation so strongly. My heart aches everytime I listen to it. Damien Rice, God love him, certainly does write anthems for the unfaithful and unhappy in love.

jrowa001
April 15th 2007


8750 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

i love this album, havent really given O a chance yet but so far 9 is really good. Rootless Tree is such an emotionally charged song...i love it



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