It’s usually a sign of trouble when a member of a successful band decides to veer off from the safety of Rock’s Lost Highway, to have a wander down the B-road of “and-this-is-me” solo action.
While Damon Albarn is no stranger to working outside the Blur unit – Gorillaz, Mali Music and several soundtracks show that already – this album is not quite what you’d expect from the frontman of a band at the top of its game.
Democrazy is not to be confused with anything as such as a solo debut album – if it was then I’m sure the public might at least know about it. Instead, it is released on Damon’s own Honest Jons imprint, and, oh, to make it even more of an outside bet for giving Dido sleepless nights about chart placings, it is limited to 5,000 10″ double vinyl copies, and is only available from selected record emporia too.
In other words, it couldn’t be more of an investment for a future eBay million if it was gold-plated and signed personally by its creator.
But what is it like? Well, it’s completely opposite to the full-on joy of some of Albarn’s best creations. The tunes and moments – and they are moments, with some lasting less than a minute – are the rough sketches that Damon was playing about with in his hotel room while Blur were doing the day job on their American tour earlier this year.
The exciting thing about Democrazy is that it dismantles Albarn’s songwriting process. Some of these tunes, such as the splendid Half A Song and Five Star Life, could become future Blur or Gorillaz classics. It’s warm to know this was how the likes of Beetlebum, Clint Eastwood and This Is A Low probably started out.
Damon drones, croons and murmurs hungover-ly, using the sort of minimal keyboards last considered futuristic back in1981, along with, who knows, percussion from the minibar, and some tell-tale melodica. This is as no-fi as possible but if you enter into the spirit of it, and don’t expect ProTools and other hi-tech space gubbins, then Democrazy can be rewarding.
So, Democrazy may not a solo album, but provided you can find a copy, it is a little extra something to put in every switched-on Blur fan’s stocking this year.