At one point nearly half of Damon Albarn’s solo debut Everyday Robots was available for public consumption. A week before the release, a full stream. In between, every possible detail bookmarked and categorized – examined like a slide underneath a microscope. In the digital age it’s par for the course, but for those reasons Everyday Robots isn’t as good as it could have been.
There’s no mystique, no sense of intrigue. It’s a gray expression flowing through an autobiographically charged pen. It sticks primarily to one note and hums there monotonously for the duration of the album.
The lead single and title cut sets the tone - the idea that we’re all way too attached to our devices, losing a bit of our soul with every like, retweet and stream. It’s compelling, but talked about ad nauseam. The hope is that through his lens it would be more than what it is. But it doesn’t fully commit, leaving only a smudge of dystopia: [LISTEN]
Since its release every element of that song has been well documented – from the video and theme to the production. Through various interviews Albarn has broken down nearly every song, and in great detail too. If you’re wondering if he really did encounter a distraught elephant in “Mr. Tembo,” yes he did: [LISTEN]
The album is very personal, bandying back and forth between exclusive experiences and social commentary. It seems like he’s aiming for humble and melancholy, but instead it comes across as unsure and tentative. Just slightly off the mark.
An album like this wasn’t meant for the general public, it was meant for Albarn and his closest friends – Brian Eno, Natasha Khan and Richard Russell included. It seems like he needed to say these things for his own sanity, which to some extent makes these criticisms seem selfish and trivial. But it’s true, simply put this is a really boring album. The despondent cover telling you everything you need to know.
There still is, however, a lot to walk away with. The production is very good, in many cases saying more than the lyrics. It’s also a bold move for Albarn, albeit in an understated sort of way. He has the gumption to put it all out there without a care as to what anyone thinks, his way of humanizing an increasingly inhumane world. It has merit, but unfortunately it’ll take more than merit to save the world.