There’s always been something of a veneer about Damon Albarn – a consummate showman who has retained a guarded persona. As Blur frontman, the façade bordered on caricature – his Mockney hi-jinks contriving to blur certain self-conscious social parameters. That he eventually turned himself into a cartoon gave literal context to the word ‘withdrawn’. And so, after a long and eclectic career, the perennial poseur finally puts his own moniker to a solitary piece of work.
It begins in familiar territory, the title track kicking things off with a Gorillaz-like fusion of classical strings and street-sounds, all soundtracking the technological lament of the album’s title. And when the jazz-soul-funk of Lonely Press Play hammers the metaphor home, we strap ourselves in for a Thom Yorke-style concept-a-thon. However, while Dan Abnormal does have an anagrammatic tendency to scramble – adopting characters like Mr Tembo, which weirdly channels UB40’s Own Song, and the Pink Floyd histrionics of Photographs – he can also reveal a tender side that transcends his conceptual endeavours.
The Selfish Giant, with its space-bound mantra “I had a dream you were leaving”, is like an astronaut’s last words trapped forever on a forgotten wavelength; History Of A Cheating Heart holds a mirror up to the trappings of nostalgia; while the album’s truest gem and final track, Heavy Seas Of Love, is a gospel-led sea shanty that reveals in its playfulness an earnest heart that exposes Damon Albarn to be the big humanitarian softie we always suspected he was.
* Full album review will be published in the April edition of Brumnotes magazine