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Damon Albarn's "Everyday Robots" Reviewed



everyday luddites

Imagine, if you will, 45 minutes of “This Is A Low” with worse melodies.That’s what you get on Damon Albarn’s ponderous, tedious, terrible new album Everyday Robots. This is the sort of album that believes cows in an field is a fair metaphor, or even a vaguely interesting metaphor for, people on their cell phones. A terrible song to start with, Damon is such a cloistered twerp he fails to see the self-evident truth that most people live existences of relentless loneliness and technology connects them back to a society. And that is what is being compared to the Kinks.

Damon has been on thin ice since 13, and while bits and pieces of Gorillaz were pretty good, mostly he has used his whinge to diminishing returns. He has also used his sad sack upper class persona and shoved it down the world’s throat, especially the masochistic mustn’t grumble sorrowful jack asses in the UK who believe if he makes you weepy it must be good.

The result has been that aided and abetted by XL owner Richard Russell, Damon has done some terrible terrible music in the past few years. The inexcusable Bobby Womack album for one. That is one of the worst things I’ve ever heard, Womack, who has more pure talent than both Richard and Damon combined, was forced to butcher his force field with one shitty song after another. When I saw him last year it was obvious that Womack still had the stamina and the ability to nail it down dead, and it wasn’t his fault except for saying yes to these cultural slumming duo, for the sorry state of that album.

Everyday Robots is the same only worse. Damon is the worst sort of intellectual, just smart enough so that his journalistic compadres at the Guardian can fulfil their ego bloating by pretending their in lockstep with his dowdy colored silliness. Whether railing at people taking photographs or singing odes to baby elephants he met in Africa (nice vacation there, Damon, share the pictures) he is a miserable bore. Everything is muted but colorful in an astoundingly bland and busy way. Even his big send off “Heavy Seas Of Love” isn’t very excited. The middle aged Damon sees everything a little sad and slow and sorry on the decrepit march to the funeral pyre, he bemoans the glimmers of joy other people get. He looks at them and sees cows to the slaughter, not quite there. It is a rare gift to be solipsistic and unitarian at the same time.

If the songs were better you might forgive him, but the songs are as  drab as the black and white album cover. From the earliest moments of his career, from Leisure, Albarn has been irratic and not as good as he thinks he is. Modern life is Rubbish and Park Life are both great albums with moments that aren’t great. And ever since The Great Escape it has been more difficult to figure out what Albarn’s problem is. Mali Music was a great idea that he missed by that much and Doctor Dee was an interesting concept for an opera that he missed completely.

The instincts are still in tact, they even shine through here and there on Everyday Robots, but it is just too dreary, too whiny, all that nature versus technology versus nurture is too silly for words. The ants on the carpet millennium tremors have morphed into the hell of  breaking up while the TV is on. Well, who do you want to blame?

It is not all horrible, well, actually it is close to all horrible. is there a more depressing segue in 2014 than “Everyday Robot” to “Hostiles” to “Just Press Play” -it is wearying. I’ve been in a lousy mood for a couple of days now and I think it is this dreadful album. With an 84% positive rating on Metacritic, I might be less sickened by the album if my peers were less besotted. Damon is the most overated musician around. He is, even at 45 years of age, a cutie, friendly, bound to stand the bloke from “Clash” a beer at the Brit Awards. He is serious but fun, he gets dance, he is deep and thoughful, gives good copy. But his songs, especially here, are gray, mildewed things and they deserve to be sneered at. Here is Joe Dolan of Rolling Stone: “The results can often recall Seventies Eno at his most meditative and Village Green era Ray Davie at his most world-sick .” No, it doesn’t recall Eno despite him singing on one track and I might underestimate Albarn (Gorillaz are better than I claimed they were) but nothing like Dolan overestimates him.

On track after track, Damon ties nostalgia to luddite wisdom to romantic disillusionment and comes to the conclusion that modern technology is turning us into robots of sorts. We suffer from a form of emotional malaise. we are forgetting how to feel. The problem with that is it isn’t true -for the ugly, for the disabled, for the social inept, for the average person, technology, cell phones, press to plays, opens the world to the. This is a bad idea on a bad album of torturous songs. And the rock critics of the world have united to ring its praises. Drowned In Sound wrote: “It’s Albarn unshackled by concepts or collaborators. And it’s not a surprise to report that the deal is gorgeously stripped down wooziness, spiked with the eclecticism that’s characterised all his post-Nineties projects.”

Will the last rock critic please turn out the lights on their way out?

Grade: D+




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