When Blur burst onto the scene in the early days of Brit-pop, no one could have imagined how much the band’s puckish frontman, Damon Albarn, would develop artistically. From the band’s own inspired records to creating the ‘virtual band’ Gorillaz (QRO album review), from collaborations like The Good, The Bad & The Queen (QRO review) to soundtracks such as Monkey: Journey To the West (QRO review), Albarn has managed to do just about everything – including Blur reunion (QRO photos). Now he takes a stab at maybe the one thing he hasn’t done, a full-on solo record (with some great guests), Everyday Robots, that pulls off its mission of depicting alienation & love in the technological world.
From its title on down, Everyday Robots could have been a high-handed, self-righteous, clunker of a mission statement-album. Instead, Albarn touches us by depicting the solitary lives we all lead, that we don’t even know we’re leading, that we don’t even know we don’t want to lead anymore. On pieces like “Hostiles”, “Lonely Press Play”, “The Selfish Giant”, “Hollow Ponds”, or “Photographs (You Are Taking Now)”, Albarn’s stark echo highlights what we’re losing, like love in “Giant” (with Natasha Khan, a.k.a. Bat For Lashes – QRO live review), or your home in “Hollow Ponds”, or the moment in “Photographs” (one hopes people put down their cellphones & cameras for this song live).
However, it’s not all doom & gloom. “Mr. Tembo” is a sort of cheery ditty version of Blur’s “Tender”, with back-up from The Leystone City Mission Choir, evoking cheeky Beatles tweaking middle England – one could see the piece being a cartoon, not like Gorillaz, but like Yellow Submarine (QRO DVD review). And The Leystone Choir comes back, with also Brian Eno, for brighter culmination “Heavy Seas of Love”.
Titles like “Everyday Robots” and “Lonely Press Play” could make a potential listener assume that this is a ponderous solo record from an artist getting a chance to go full-on artiste, but Everyday Robots is as touching and effective as so much in today’s world isn’t.