Damon Albarn has been somewhat of an enigma since his Blur days, foraying into a variety of musical projects such as the hugely successful hip-hop, electro-funk group, Gorillaz, as well as a number of collaboration albums (The Good, The Bad, And The Queen being the most noteworthy). Albarn is probably remembered as the baby-faced, teen heart-throb who counter-balanced the harsh Mancunian sounds of Liam Gallagher during the height of Britpop in the 90s - but who exactly is he? His first official solo album, Everyday Robots, may offer us the best answer to this question.
As a self confessed ‘technophobe’, this becomes very apparent as you begin the album with title track, Everyday Robots. Immediately there is a foreboding, dystopian atmosphere established. The dominant theme seems to be of our modern day reliance on technology, for not only our actions but our emotions as well. This is particularly highlighted by the lyric, “when I’m lonely I press play”.
The following track is a surprise; Mr. Tembo, which is somewhat reminiscent of Blur’s Tender, includes a background choir. This upbeat track is actually about a baby elephant trying to get up a hill, and harmoniously contrasts with the downbeat previous tracks. It certainly stands out on the record. Other highlights for me are the two shortest tracks on the record, Parakeet and Seven High. These are two beautiful instrumentals, which offer a relaxing bridge between other tracks on the album.
The Selfish Giant resuscitates the digital heartbeat of the LP, introducing moody piano/guitar sounds which continue for the rest of the album. That is, up until the final track, Heavy Seas Of Love, which presents an optimistic reminder of the uniting human emotion of love - it’s quite refreshing to hear as an encore to Everyday Robots.
It seems that Damon has some harsh criticisms of modern day Earth, particularly I find, with the de-humanising effects of technology and social media. In an interview with Wired he praises technology for the functional and creative catalyst it can be, but expresses resentment towards it throughout this album. As the digital age looms over us, the album certainly feels very relevant.
As a whole, fans of Blur and Gorillaz should be very excited as both the bittersweet sounds of Blur, and the hip-hop vibes of Gorillaz are present here, along with Damon’s mesmerising voice to tie it all together. Fans of Massive Attack and Zero 7 will also find joy in this album, as that trip-hop beat, so unique to British music, is blissfully present throughout this outstanding record.