Sunday, November 9, 2014

I don't want to change you

Damien Rice's new album is being released on Tuesday.

For someone, or anyone, who has been a fan of his since O, that phrase should seem pretty surreal. Nobody supposes that their favorite singer (which he was, for me, eight years ago) will take another eight years to release his or her next record. But that was a reality Damien Rice fans had to live with. And I bemoaned his absence, constantly asking, "What happened to Damien Rice? When is he going to put another album out? What's he doing with his time? Why can't he at least go on tour? WHAT IS HE DOING? WHY WON'T HE PUT ANOTHER ALBUM OUT!?" Eventually it just became a joke, something I would just say because well, why not? I did miss him. I barely listened to his music over the last five years or so, just because I was tired of it but yeah, I would've welcomed a new album wholeheartedly. Or so I imagined.Wanting a new Damien Rice was just something I was supposed to do, and I said I wanted it more the more it seemed like weren't going to get it. Damien Rice was just some dude from Ireland who used to make music, whom I used to see in concert, whom I used to enjoy a lot, and whose music meant a lot to me but it all seemed like a different lifetime. And that part of my life was over and it was time to say good-bye to Damien Rice and wanting his third album.

But then a third album was announced! I was pleased but not ecstatic. The announcement had the misfortune of coming a few days after I bought tickets to see Owl John, and I was pretty freaking excited about that. The joy I felt about that is best described by a word the English language has not created yet. And yes, I suppose it's silly to be that excited for someone you'd be seeing for the fourth time in eighteen months, for someone who has had a release every year for the last three years. One of the problems was I was pretty indifferent to the singles Damien had released (yes, indifference is exactly how I feel about "I Don't Want to Change You.") To make matters worse, Damien then announced some tours dates in NYC and they were...the exact same week I was going to see Owl John. I would've been thrilled about that show (erm, maybe...) had it been any other week. I knew Scott Hutchison was going to blow me away before I even went to the show (and I was right), and it was going to be really tough for anyone to top that show.

Damien didn't. Look, it was wonderful to see him again, in an "intimate" space (I guess, whatever, Warsaw is a craphole) but other than making me feel nostalgic, the show didn't do anything for me (until Glen Hansard stepped on stage but you know, he's a legend in my book). Damien sounded great, he looked great, and everything was technically great but I just didn't feel anything. Yes, it's great to have him back but it's making me feel nothing. It probably had to do with the concert I went to earlier in the week, sure, but maybe I am right: Damien Rice's music belonged to another part of my life.

I am still trying to get excited about the third album. I've listened to it three or four times in its entirety and it did not grab me right away. But hey, sometimes that happens. It usually happens to albums I end up really, really liking. And look, I didn't press play the first time with intentions of disliking but nothing grabbed me, I was especially taken aback by how dreadful the lyrics are. I've always liked Damien as a lyricist; some of his lyrics on O are truly amazing. The lyrics on My Favorite Faded Fantasy are plodding and I can his rhymes coming a mile away. There's no sharpness to them. And the whole damn album just feels so unnecessarily long (it's only eight songs but runs about fifty minutes). Nothing is exciting or compelling. It all feels like it's been done before. It's not something worth waiting eight years for. It feels like he's been stunted, creatively. It's nothing new for him at all. It seems he hasn't grown at all musically. Does everyone have to reinvent their sound with every album? No. Just look at Spoon or Beach House or The National. They've perfected their sound and do it all really well. But they do it well. Compare it to Fiona Apple's last record; that album was incredible and worth waiting seven years for. Damien's is just such a disappointment.

But I refuse to give up. Mostly because I feel like Charlie Brown at Christmastime about it. Everyone else is excited but I just don't get it. I'm not a party pooper. I want to reiterate that I am really, really glad Damien is back. I hope he does a bigger tour next year because I'm going to pay to see him. I'm even going to buy his record on Tuesday on vinyl. But I think it's just for nostalgia reasons. Because I waited too long for this all to happen, and I've earned my right to be a part of it.

Know whose new album is really, really fantastic? The Twilight Sad's. I mention them simply because I saw them live between Owl John and Damien Rice. Also because Nobody Wants to Be Here and Nobody Wants to Leave is a great example of records growing on you, records that are really rewarding after being a challenge, records that take some time to reveal how great they truly are.

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