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Evolution : Gorilla to Monkey
September 23, 2008 12:21 PM   Subscribe

Damon Albarn’s career reads like a roadmap to some musical no-man's land: start a pop band, turn into an indie/hip-hop/dub “virtual” group, followed by a supergroup featuring Tony Allen and Paul Simonon, and throw in an album of Malian guitar music for good measure.

Not enough variety? The latest effort, Monkey - Journey to the West, took 4 years to prepare and debuted last summer at the Manchester International Festival. The accompanying soundtrack is out today in North America. (previously)
posted by mannequito (25 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite

 
Well he's better than Sting.
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 12:33 PM on September 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


Sort-of-a-double
posted by Artw at 12:37 PM on September 23, 2008


The album has been available on Amie for awhile now.

It's pretty good -- in fact, it's really good. But some people might be disappointed to know that it's not a straight recording of the opera. In fact, the album contains very few vocals. Clearly, they were looking to make an album that could become a best seller in the pop section of the record store.
posted by roll truck roll at 12:37 PM on September 23, 2008


The first thing I clicked on was the "supergroup" link. Wow. Just based on that lineup and sound, I am going to look up and request whatever my library has of Damon Albarn's. Thanks!
posted by not_on_display at 12:38 PM on September 23, 2008


I'm never sure how I feel about Damon Albarn. I mean, I've heard some amazing super-obscure stuff from projects he's been involved in, and it's impressed the hell out of me. But then that Blur song that's been in so many commercials makes me want to hit things. On the other hand, I understand that he's been phenomenally helpful with up and coming indie bands. Also, I loved the first gorillas album. But then I remember reading an article in an advertising trade mag about how gorillas (this was when Demon Days came out) is the advertiser's best friend, about how marketers worked closely to craft the gorillas image to market cars and phones and such.

honestly, it boggles me.
posted by shmegegge at 12:38 PM on September 23, 2008


shmegegge - Woo hoo! dugga-dugga-bouncy-guitar-bit.
posted by Artw at 12:40 PM on September 23, 2008


I'm glad someone's dropped a line about this. Albarn's all over the map career is consistently impressive -- and often commercially successful. Yet his ventures into other forms and styles of music don't seem motivated by a desire to reach a different, wider audience but by a drive to challenge himself and keep life . . . strange. The man's loaded, could keep working with Gorrilaz, but he stretches, expands, learns. It seems like an immensely positive and righteous example for anyone to follow. . . There was a good New Yorker article on his journey to China a while back. Maybe I missed the link in the original post but here 'tis.
posted by matthewstopheles at 12:40 PM on September 23, 2008


matthewstopheles - great article, wish I'd caught it for the post

artw - I included the link for the previous post, but it did concentrate more on Jamie Hewlett, the other half of the Monkey team
posted by mannequito at 12:53 PM on September 23, 2008


Fellow band member Alex James is also one of those people who crops up in unusual places. Notably as the composer of the musical call sign that the ill-fated British Beagle space probe was supposed to beam back to earth to indicate it had landed.

He has also been having a bash at conducting. And making cheese.
posted by rongorongo at 12:54 PM on September 23, 2008


Yeah... That's because Damon Albarn is AWESOME
posted by Lacking Subtlety at 1:02 PM on September 23, 2008


It is kind of hard to remember a time when he (with Blur) was involved in a fairly nasty rivalry with the "lads" of Oasis, isn't it? Talk about divergent paths...

I admire his desire to grow musically, as well as his ability to reside in Iceland. The guy is all kinds of awesome.
posted by joelhunt at 1:31 PM on September 23, 2008


What Damon Albarn was like at school

His schoolteacher says: "I taught Damon only a couple of times, but he was always around and I found him quite bigheaded. He was very popular, certainly with the girls. I'm not so sure about the lads. He was very confident, the sort of person who would think nothing of standing up in front of assembly and knocking out Guys And Dolls tunes. He was a bit of a poseur."
posted by dydecker at 1:32 PM on September 23, 2008


But then I remember reading an article in an advertising trade mag about how gorillas (this was when Demon Days came out) is the advertiser's best friend, about how marketers worked closely to craft the gorillas image to market cars and phones and such.

Link? From what I know of Albarn this sounds out of character for him [and Hewitt].

I am going to look up and request whatever my library has of Damon Albarn's. Thanks!

The Good, The Bad and The Queen was my favourite album of last year. Beautiful warm record.
posted by meech at 2:08 PM on September 23, 2008


His collaboration with Michael Nyman for the Ravenous soundtrack was pretty damn excellent, too. Historical instruments and all.
posted by zusty at 2:15 PM on September 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


Link? From what I know of Albarn this sounds out of character for him [and Hewitt].


Unfortunately, it was from a magazine in a men's room and I read it on the toilet years ago. I haven't the foggiest idea where or how you can find it. And while it certainly might sound out of character for Albarn, it certainly meshes in my mind with what gorillas eventually turned into. but hey, maybe i'm misremembering it.
posted by shmegegge at 3:28 PM on September 23, 2008


I really want to not like Albarn - he often comes across as a bit of a twit, or just as the quote from the schoolteacher says. But the man is obviously very very very talented, and willing to follow his 'calling' rather than just go for the money. And my admiration of that outweighs my dislike of his twitishness (or twatishness really).

Great post BTW
posted by Megami at 4:16 PM on September 23, 2008


There's a fine line between innovative and uneven. Albarn crosses it often. I like a lot of his stuff, but then he'll go do something and I'll think it's utter shite.

I dunno. I like about 1/3 of the tracks on every Blur album, and the rest just feel like throwaways. The Good, The Bad, and The Queen is alright, but I never really got into it all the way. This post makes me want to give it a try again. The Malian guitar thing is rad though.

So much music, so little time.
posted by bardic at 8:49 PM on September 23, 2008


Thank you for making this post. I love Damon Albarn and don't think he gets enough credit for his versatility and, I think, vast talent.
posted by nonmerci at 9:56 PM on September 23, 2008


FSOR...talk of album number 3 has already begun.
posted by deusdiabolus at 12:42 AM on September 24, 2008


His schoolteacher says

I've got no love particularly for Damon Owldarse -- in fact, the only thing I know about him is that he isn't Jarvis Cocker -- but if I was Damon, I'd be paying a few of the hired hands to go around to that that teacher's house and give him a good kicking.

That'd teach him a sorely-needed lesson about respecting his students confidentiality.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 3:14 AM on September 24, 2008


I had a rare privilege of seeing Gorillaz live in Manchester in 2005, in a very rare performance of the Demon Days album. They only did five nights, and pretty much the only time they performed live (instead of using CGI which they did for some big shows). I dont think they've played since. Certainly not in this format. 80 people on stage at some point (and a small stage at that) including Neneh Cherry, Ike Turner and De la Soul amongst others.

In the 800-1000 gigs I think I've been to, it was simply the best one I've ever seen. I was in the front row and it looked like this. Review here
posted by daveyt at 5:27 AM on September 24, 2008 [1 favorite]


Damon seems to have taken a back seat on a lot of interesting projects. Some of Blur's songs are absolutely perfect pop songs as well, somewhere between Oasis and Pulp.

But I really can't stand Alex James. He used to have this wildchild image, but now he's splashed all over UK broadsheet proclaiming his love for organic goats and wooly jumpers. I'm not sure when he was more fake - when he was bouncing about on stage or when he's swanning around his Oxford farmhouse.

He recently did quite possibly the worst documentary I've ever seen, about cocaine in South America. He came across as an insipid, vacant presenter with no interest in the subject matter other than how much he could stuff up his nose while the cameras were turned away.

I'm surprised no one's mentioned the supremely more likable Graham Coxon yet, who left the band in 2002 and went on to become a lo-fi hero.
posted by hnnrs at 7:47 AM on September 24, 2008


This version of Strange News From Another Star is amazing. (That's Damon, btw)

I once hung out with Damon after a show back in '95, during the Parklife tour. He wasn't nearly as aloof as he should have been. Graham was even more laid back. I've been a huge Blur fan since Leisure, but I've never been much for Damon's side projects, even TGTBTQ, which I really wanted to like.
posted by shoepal at 8:55 PM on September 24, 2008


Damon's a tool. Always has been, or at least from the first words he ever uttered to Graham Coxon. That's at least 30 years of tooldom. It's window dressing. He's all pretense, no substance. Any talent and originality is long gone; Damon's run out of pithy song lyrics, and the spirit of Blur (whilst they still mattered: only through 13) is only alive and well in Graham Coxon.
posted by Mael Oui at 9:11 PM on September 24, 2008


I don't really care what Damon Albarn is like as a person. I just know that I think very highly of his music.
posted by Kattullus at 10:29 PM on September 24, 2008


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