Album Review: Damon Albarn Dr Dee

8 May 2012 | 6:36 pm | Andy Snelling

Having said all this, there are moments when we are treated to Albarn’s own voice and some beautiful folk sounds such as Apple Carts. All in all, a somewhat confusing release from the ever-exploring Albarn; it probably works on stage, but as a record… eh.

It's official. Damon Albarn has joined the long list of lauded frontmen turned self-indulgent solo artists. New record Dr Dee will no doubt see fans somewhere down the track lament: “Blur put Oasis to shame, and I loved the Gorillaz, but Damon Albarn's solo stuff was a bit wanky wasn't it?” And it will be hard to argue with them in that classic Morrissey Vs The Smiths fashion, because, well, they'll be right.

Admittedly, Dr Dee forms the soundtrack to Albarn's second opera (he made one called Monkey: Journey To The West in 2008) and it would be hard to write an opera that was universally appealing, at least for people like me who don't get opera. This assortment of sometimes folky, largely orchestral songs tell the story of an 18th Century know-it-all and advisor to Queen Elizabeth I, named Dr John Dee. It's unusual and far reaching as far as influences go, and it sums up a man who is obviously more concerned with his art than pandering to fans.

No doubt Albarn is only able to make this kind or record due to his previous successes. The songs are intelligent, and experimental, but could be extremely alienating for any unsuspecting fans of Albarn's previous work. The long list of guest-singers range from the shrill, operatic to deep lumberjack baritones with choral accompaniments that sound as though they belong as the soundtrack to a Monty Python cartoon.

Having said all this, there are moments when we are treated to Albarn's own voice and some beautiful folk sounds such as Apple Carts. All in all, a somewhat confusing release from the ever-exploring Albarn; it probably works on stage, but as a record… eh.

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