Music Reviews
Everyday Robots

Damon Albarn Everyday Robots

(Parlophone) Buy it from Insound Rating - 8/10
At first glance, Damon Albarn's debut solo album, Everyday Robots, is about the effects of the Internet and modern technology on the world. That is not the whole story, though. While a few songs do discuss everyone's favorite post-millennial topic, this is a personal album, wrapped in electronic touches and digital metaphors. It's Albarn singing about himself, in a truer sense than he has since Blur's 13 dropped 15 years ago. The result is an album that humanizes the machine and peels back a layer from Albarn's life while adding more to the music.
 
At the start, the album fully embraces its title, with two of its best songs reflecting the two sides of the Internet coin. The title track starts with the deep, drunken voice of comic Lord Buckley, saying “They didn’t know where they was going, but they knew where they was wasn’t it.” Sharp, electronically-tinged strings and a clicking percussion sit alongside a gorgeous piano melody, as Albarn sings, “Everyday robots just touch thumbs/Swimmin’ in lingo they become/Stricken in a status sea/One more vacancy.” Lonely Press Play is the exemplative of technology's positives. The melody gets a little funkier, with a slow-stepping bass taking the lead and jazzy nightclub piano adding to the sensation of finding an escape by pressing play. Who hasn't felt lonely and found refuge with a TV remote, a video game controller or iPod? 
 
The first sign that Everyday Robots is going to be more than it seems at first glance comes with Hostiles, a love song in digital dressing. "Hoping to find the key/to this play of communications/between you and me," Albarn tiredly sings, with gently plucked guitar strings and a warped percussion that sounds like a dog barking providing the backdrop. Things get even more personal on the reflective You & Me and the self-referential Hollow Ponds. The former's backing track sounds a searching satellite signal works, fitting for Albarn's look back to his struggles with heroin ("Tin foil and a lighter") and his battle with sudden success in the 90s ("Some days I look at the morning trying to work out how I got here/Cause the distance between us is the glamour’s cost"). The latter is one of the most stripped back songs on the album, centering on Albarn's guitar and vocals. "Modern life was sprayed onto a wall, 1993," he sings, looking back to his breakthrough as regal horns punctuate the verse.
 
Not every personal song is a melancholic affair, though. Mr. Tembo is the most upbeat, playful song on the album. It's about an elephant Albarn met during a trip to Africa. What more can you really say about it? Light acoustic strums and a gospel choir make an instant mood-shifter. It's impossible to feel down while listening to it. It's one of those songs that kids can dance to and adults can groove to, a Yellow Submarine for today. While this album is very consistent, there are a few missteps. Seven High and The History Of A Cheating Heart float by without much notice and could have been cut. The Selfish Giant, with its classical piano and electronic beats, wastes the vocal talents of Natasha Khan from Bat for Lashes. Taking a powerhouse singer like her and having her whisper behind Albarn's vocals is the worst way to possibly use her abilities.
 
Everyday Robots wraps up with Heavy Seas of Love. The uplifting vocal choir makes this song an answer to Gorillaz's Demon Days. While that chorus felt like warning, this one is a resolve to the questions of modern life. This album is about growing up and living in the 21st century, for all the good or ill that may mean. In the end though, no matter how many distractions there are or how chaotic life gets, you can still float away on the heavy seas of love.