By Jake Ebdale
Released April 25th, 2014 - Warner Music
Call the press - Damon Albarn's made a solo record. Removed from the Blur/Gorillaz steam train, his puzzling opera aspiration and producing a Bobby Womack comeback, Everyday Robots is a welcome back of sorts; an inoffensive mood-swing of an album rooted in isolation and dialled back reflection.
I rate it. Firstly due to how layered it is, secondly because it's Albarn nestling into a perfectly crafted niche of grey shit. It won't change anyone's world, or opinion of Albarn the brand in that matter. Whatever this is, though, it's undoubtedly unique. There are hints of Bowie and Simon. The positives of heroin have obviously done wonders.
Robots is peppered with every aspect of the frontman's career - the eccentricity of 13/Think Tank era Blur (Lonely Press Play, Photograph), the most jubilant Gorillaz (Mr. Tembo) and untapped, confessional ruminations (You & Me, History of a Cheating Heart) that still prove he has something worth recording. His collaborative spirit is strong too, pulling in Bat for Lashes' Natasha Kahn and ol' mate Brian Eno, their features effective and well done. The interludes play as short snippets into Albarn's ear canal too. If you've ever heard Mark Hollis' wonderful solo record after the combustion of the mighty Talk Talk, well, this sounds nothing like that. But it reminds me of the idea behind it, because Robots feels isolated, coming from a famous man with hardly any PR kerfuffle. Bask in the result and start peeling them layers, it'll take you a while, and your eyes will sting.
As the album closes on its best song, the Eno-vox Heavy Seas of Love, you start feeling empty. Getting older, you get mellower, more contemplative. Bear in mind this is the guy that wrote Feel Good Inc, Parklife, Dare- at close to 50, you can't blame him for slowing his pace. By no means is this a bad thing, it's just that Albarn's music evokes a different group of feelings. Midlife crises, broken relationships, addiction, a wet concrete commute to a fucked job.
On repeated listens, this record sounds like the musical equivalent of disappearing into your warm duvet on a sick day. Temporary solace, but tomorrow? Back to being an everyday robot.