News The Genius Of Damon Albarn

This week sees the release of ‘Kinshasa One Two’, an album featuring a collective of musicians and producers, led by Damon Albarn, collaborating and working with local musicians from the Democratic republic of Congo to make a whole record in only seven days. As well as the release of this ambitious project there is also the first gig in over three years from The Good The Bad And The Queen taking place on 10th November. Just another week in the remarkable career of Damon Albarn.

The Blur frontman and all round musical renaissance-man has long since established himself as one of the UK’s most talented and forward thinking musicians characterised by his boundless ambition and desire to do new things and create new sounds, but just one look at his staggering array of projects, both musically and culturally, in 2011 brings home just how much of a special talent he is.

In chronological order, this year Albarn has: composed the score for a film adaptation of his sister Jessica’s short story ‘The Boy In The Oak’; composed and written an opera entitled ‘Doctor Dee’ based around the 19th century astrologer John Dee; organised a live show at London’s Barbican under the umbrella of his record company Honest Jon’s; formed a new band with Red Hot Chilli Peppers bassist Flea and legendary drummer Tony Allen, called Rocketjuice & The Moon; put together a forthcoming Gorillaz Greatest Hits compilation; played live again with TGTBATQ; and orchestrated the aforementioned DRC Music project.

That exhaustive list does not include the rumoured recording sessions with Blur, and I have probably missed out countless other things too. The point is that no UK musician has such a voracious appetite and capacity for creative expression, and the best thing is that nearly all Albarn’s projects turn out to be amazing - and never short of fascinating.

Nobody would ever have guessed Damon Albarn would have such an impressive and varied musical career in 1995 while watching him larking about with Damien Hirst and Matt Lucas in Blur’s horrible Benny Hill pastiche video for ‘Country House’. Those images now seem like relics from a long lost past, but, even in the days of Blur, Albarn showed he had a prescient gift for identifying new sounds and was always ahead of the musical curve, characteristics that he continues to show today.

Examples of Albarn’s musical foresight are widespread. They include his early adoption of typically British sounds and styles in the face of widespread grunge with ‘Modern Life Is Rubbish’, and his ability to realise the clichéd Britpop sound had run its course by 1996 with the reinvention of Blur as a credible alternative rock act on 1997’s ‘Blur’. This is a pattern repeated throughout Albarn’s career as he reinvents pop with Gorillaz, and undertakes pioneering work with African musicians on 2002’s ‘Mali Music’. His career has been one long musical evolution going from the baggy influenced pop of ‘She’s So High’ to the dubby experimentalism of DRC Music.

In terms of legendarily creative UK musicians, the names David Bowie, Kate Bush, and The Beatles are always mentioned. However, now into his 20th year making music, it is about time that Damon Albarn was added to that list. Who knows what he can achieve in the next 20 years.

Tags: Features

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