Monday, August 17, 2009

Musical Arists of the Decade Part 3

Damon Albarn

Sometime not long after they began, Oasis established a formula - write Beatles songs and perform them with a lot of piss and vinegar.
The formula has not changed for the Gallagher brother since then, except that the songs aren't very good anymore. Near the beginning of their career, Blur came up with a formula - imitate the Stone Roses. luckily they abandoned that after their first album and have been the better band ever since. But with Blur largely on the sidelines this decade Damon Albarn has become a globe-trotting music maker/promoter. Most well known, of course is his work with Gorillaz, which have created not just two proper albums, but multiple ambitious tours, hours of animated footage (from his collaborator Jamie Hewlett), loads of b-sides and a documentary for good measure. The project has bridged the gap between pop, rap and rock while still making strange challenging music. Albarn upped the ante even further by working with Hewlitz on the Chinese opera Monkey: Journey to the West. It was an impressive accomplishment given how awkward rock stars seem when they dabble in serious music (see Costello, Elvis and Joel, Billy).

Less ambitions, in a multimedia sense was the The Good, The Bad and The Queen project, where Albarn not only succeeded in getting Paul Simonon of the Clash out of retirement plus Tony Allen on percussion, but also made a fantastically mature post-Brit Rock album. It says a lot about the group that the dreaded "Supergroup" word was rarely used. It was simply a fantastic album.

His globetrotting continued on his Mali Music album, his production work with Amadou and Mariam, and his partnership in the the Honest Jon's label, which has released a number of top notch world music collections.

And the decade wasn't wholly without work from Blur. The band released Think Tank album in 2003 and although it was by far their most difficult album (I remember sitting there stunned and confused after the first listen) it's a grower in the finest sense and a solid marker of how far the band had come from their modest origins. Plus for good measure (or possibly a lot of money) the band reunited this year to remind people what an amazing group they were.


Jason Heat said...

Good call on this one.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Albarn IS way more talented than I realized when I began listening to/loving Blur at age 16. As Mr. Heat said previously, good call on this one!