Damon Albarn


(Honest Jons; 2003)

By Peter Hepburn | 14 September 2007

Four-tracks seem like they could be a lot of fun. I mean just look at all the musicians out there getting their big break after throwing together an album in their basement. Devendra Banhart’s Oh Me Oh My trounces the far more polished Rejoicing in the Hands, even if you can hear the cars driving by while Devendra is playing. There’s something in the ghostly magic of the four-track that has a wonderful beauty, something all those Elephant 6-ers were very clear on.

Blur has never been a four-track sort of band. Everything on Parklife would have sounded like shit if it had been recorded on a dinky Tascam. The most recent Blur album---the pleasant Think Tank--- would have also suffered if it hadn’t had that terrific Blur studio shine. Therefore the idea of Damon Albarn going out and releasing a limited edition double 10” of demos recorded on the road in North America doesn’t tend to excite much interest. The music itself doesn’t help.

To be fair, these are demos, and they come off as such. Still, why are these getting commercial release, albeit limited? There are very limited redeeming qualities to this collection of poorly played, badly written tripe. Albarn seems to come up with an interesting idea one per side, and even there the results aren’t very impressive. “Half a Song” lives up to its name, as does the truly insipid “A Rappy Song.”

It seems that this will be serving as the starting point for the next Blur LP, so it may be worth pointing out that there are a few tracks that sound like they could be salvaged. If he could come up with a second (and third) section, Albarn may be able to make “Half a Song” work, and “Subspecies of an American Day”---the highpoint of the album---could easily become a Blur track. “End of Democrazy” seems like it could work, but it’s both too self-referential and cops the beat that Blur used for Think Tank’s “Jets." ”Got to Get Down With the Passing of Time" may have something going for it, but it is tenuous at best.

It’s hard to say where the next Blur album will be headed. After all, the band has shown a penchant for creativity and some innovation, which has at the very least superseded material like this. Let's just hope that Albarn steers well clear of the Democrazy aesthetic or the only place it will be headed is the dollar bin.