Thursday, 10 May 2012

The 2kDozen 200: #171 - Damon Albarn, "Dr Dee"

I was struck by the thought as I listened to this earlier today that Damon Albarn is "our"* Sting. I don't think he's as much of a prink as Mr Sumner or that everything is for the greater glory of Damon Albarn in the same way as the rainforests and Quentin Crisp and Nabokov and tantric sex have all been put in this universe for the greater glory of Sting. I liked Blur until very close to the end; but his solo stuff is pretentious in that dry way - yes, an opera about an Elizabethan polymath, sounds very grown up, Damon! It's a troubling thought that I quite enjoy parts of the album.

It is hard work in places, perhaps a little worthy and smacking of cardboard as a result; "O Spirit, Animate Us" shackles some sixteenth century worldview to his tired-sounding voice. There are a lorra lorra instruments on here - rauch fifes and dulcimers and harpsichords and what have you (provided you have a lot) - and a lot of different voices to populate the stage. It should be exciting, but it gets rather tiring.

I like the menace of the bass of "A Man of England", but it's lyrically empty. In fact, that might be my complaint throughout. The lyrics don't seem to do much but describe movements and planets and offer no great emotional depth. "The Marvelous Dream" might be a vision of the future from John Dee's time, almost sounding like Parklife at times, but I can't really get into the words. The word "revival" crops up a lot across a few songs, but I can't pluck out why.

"Temptation Comes in the Afternoon" starts out promisingly with some choral swoops but then the counter tenor screeches in over the top, sounding more than a little like Damon himself. I think there are references to angels and then some orgiastic noises. Some of the music - like on "Cathedrals" or "Tree of Beauty" - really stirs some of my stumps. In fact the last three tunes hit me on the listening button quite squarely. And babbling brook and birdsong is always a classy ending.

And yet...

Rating: Alan Moore Much Better Off out of It

* And I'm really not sure who "we" are, but I identify with Albarn in a way I never could with Sting. It feels generational, but I couldn't put a finger on what would link the generation together.

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