Monday, 06 December, 2021

Rebellious Jukebox: Damon Albarn — Nearer The Fountain, More Pure The Stream Flows


I remember hearing “She’s So High” back when it first came out. Blur weren’t really my thing at that point. The second album “Modern Life Is Rubbish” didn’t make much of an impact on my either. “Parklife” though really struck a chord — it was intelligent and funny and musically sophisticated. I also liked “The Great Escape” as well though it fared badly because of the whole stupid battle with Oasis, which they were perceived to have lost. The self-titled album after that, and Albarn’s continual artistic growth reveal quite eloquently who the real winner is.

“Nearer The Fountain, More Pure The Stream Flows” hits differently from the work he does with Gorillaz and his other collaborations, which makes sense, because why come at music from these different angles if they produce the same result. It felt very melancholy to me. Not in the way Radiohead seems melancholy, which comes off as a more cerebral contemplation of a state of melancholia fed through the abstraction of electronic beeps, whirrs and garbled feedback.

Albarn crafts something that floats with a lighter touch. I’d describe it as comedown if the music felt even vaguely drug-influenced. It arrives more as sadness borne from quiet contemplation, the kind you feel when you wake up early in the morning and you are the only one awake in the house. You think of things such as mortality. This is based on first listen, so it is sitting with more as a whole than as individual tracks. There is a catchiness to the music.

Albarn’s innovation and his electronica soul music, along with all his other ventures, inspires trust in me and makes me want to follow him. I am willing to give anything he makes a listen. Oasis are a group I always remember talking about their kinship with The Beatles, but I always felt they were more basic rock and roll, like The Rolling Stones. Blur were the innovative inheritors of The Beatles music, and their character-driven songs also held onto that legacy, a British comic sensibility tracing back to The Goons.

“Blur” the self-titled album saw the canvas widen and an edging into territory occupied by groups like Pavement. Blur’s subsequent albums held some of this sensibility to it’s heart, but it really felt like Gorillaz carried forward a truer combination of Blur’s earlier aesthetic and fused it with the more American sounding music Blur created after. Albarn’s solo records feel like they come from a relaxed place where he has set aside the Gorillaz mask, and is letting the forward motion of the stream carry him where it will, so that he will have new sounds to deliver both on his own and when he works with others. So this is both a step onwards as an album and a step between albums.

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