Damon Albarn, the Britpop hero; the man who brought us the world’s first virtual band; the man who’s done pop operas and just generally has an all-round diverse back catalogue finally has a proper solo album under his belt. It’s also the most personal and melancholy work he’s ever put out.
Everyday Robots essentially seems to be two lyrical themes running side by side juxtaposing each other. The theme that is obvious in many ways is the relationship that man has with modern technology as suggested in the title of the album. ‘We are every day robots on our phones’ ‘when I’m lonely I press play’ are just a couple of lines on the album commenting on this. The lyrics on the topic aren’t cryptic, subtle or even ironically cheeky like his blur days, but don’t need to be. They don’t need to be because under these lyrics he’s hiding some of his personal experiences of his life, from his heroin use of 90s to when he met a baby elephant, he’s sharing some of the memories of his life. After repeat listens to this album the personal lyrics unravel themselves and the way he sings them so tentatively only assists in the beauty of them. Albarn is known for not letting anyone know too much about himself in interviews and being reserved so it makes sense that when he’s singing lyrics about himself they’re cryptic and not blatant.
Musically is when Albarn perfectly shows the relationship between nature vs technology and there examples littered all over the album. The clanking beats in nearly every song on this album sound how you would imagine it to sound if a computer was able to do bodily functions, and on top of these beats there are often either acoustic guitars or tender piano pieces to contrast with it. On the instrumental track ‘seven high’ there are contrasting sounds of what sounds like a TV opening theme and a piano piece playing the same chords. On the title track there is this haunting violin piece that sounds like it’s trying to overpower the track to represent the growing power that technology has over mankind.
You would think that with all of these obvious references to the theme of the album it would seem like Albarn is trying to shove it down your throat but he does it in such a gentle way that it comes of very naturally and also is extremely engaging.
This is album isn’t an instant joy though, apart from the song ‘Mr Tembo’ and the Brian Eno collaboration ‘Heavy Seas of Love’ it is an extremely down tempo album with Albarn singing extremely intimately and often with lack of melody. Some will argue that the album would have benefitted if it had more melody, but after repeat listens and digging deep into the record there are so many intriguing things in the layers of music and in the lyrics.
Without hiding behind satiric ironic lyrics, virtual bands or operas about other people’s lives, it feels like we’re getting to know the real Damon Albarn.