At his homecoming gig at Manchester Apollo it was apparent to all that Mr Marr had finally made it on his own terms, turning himself from guitarist of a generation to now a frontman with huge respect and great stage presence. The one and half hour marathon gig was a mix of his two solo albums, smiths songs and even a few covers.
The smiths songs he played were never performed as if to cash in on his success but as a celebration of his musical past, ‘Panic’ and ‘Still ill’ being personal favourites. His new album Playland got its 1st airing since its release with both the explosive ‘Dynamo’ and the catchy riffs of ‘Easy Money hitting the mark. The encore brought a magical cover of Iggy pop’s Lust for life which Marr played with aplomb. The set closer and Smiths classic ‘How soon is now’ led to rapturous applause for the Manchester lad done good, Johnny Marr unite and take over!
Damon Albarn ‘Everyday Robots‘
Who would believe that Damon Albarn has been with us in musical circles for 25 years and in so many various projects. Of course he’s known to many as the man who spearheaded the britpop movement in the 90s with Blur, as well as creating a cartoon alter ego with Gorillaz. His more recent works with African music and even a musical on the west end shows Albarn’s desire to create music in various forms, whilst always pushing himself to achieve more and more.
Everyday Robots is his 1st solo album which is a pretty amazing thing when you think of his career. This personal and revealing record takes small steps to reveal the real Mr Albarn and scans back through childhood and adolescent memories in a intriguing if not often sad portrayal. The title track highlights his great arrays of musical influences and styles. The piano runs along with elegance throughout, whilst there’s hints of synth and harmonium along with endless percussion loops. The most revealing track is ‘Hollow ponds’ a journey through time where albarn takes us back to the drought of 1976, his 1st day in school 1979 and seein modern life is rubbish graffiti in 1993 (the name of Blur’s 2nd record that year) All these poignant memories only illustrates the great craft Damon has in relating past memories and turning them into beautiful songs
Albarn is a avid collaborator on a lot of his previous projects but it is few and far between on this record, Brian Eno adds vocals on ‘Heavy Seas of Love’ and Bats for Lashes singer Natasha khan joins Damon on ‘The Selfish Giant’ both of which are perfect additions to the record. This lack of helpers does indicate that is a true solo record, somethin that has been a long time coming and how glad we all are that it is here.
‘Mr Tembo’ is the only example of cheery, up-beat tempos on the record and is based on a trip to Tanzania he made where he sang to a baby. It’s a ukekele-based sound with great gospel sections and evokes a similiar method he used with the fabulous ‘Tender’ a recent favourite on Blur’s recent comeback shows.
His 1st credited record as a solo performer, Damon Albarn has shown to us that his craft has a songwriter is getting better with age and let’s hope he will show us some more of his wonderful memories again sometime
********* (9 out of 10)