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Dr Dee/Rocket Juice And The Moon
Sometime Blur ringleader gets his funk – and his Blackadder – on
Ed Power, 22 May 2012
Like a lager-chugging football hoolie with a well-thumbed copy of Camus inside his Burberry puffa, Damon Albarn’s laddish shell – an image as cultivated as any pop star’s you suspect – has masked something darker and weirder.
You caught glimpses, the occasional whiff of something pungently odd, even on Blur’s most outwardly unadventurous output: Parklife was awash with imagery of shape-shifting civil servants and savant pigeons; and The Great Escape, perhaps his least loved work, turns out to have been a dark, phantasmagorical carnival ride through the underbelly of southern English identity. If nobody noticed at the time it was because, in the accompanying videos, Blur were mugging in their Adidas zip-ups and goofing off with Keith Allen. Shout ‘Oi!’ all the time and you can fool almost anyone into believing you’re just on a lark.
Given that Parklife, in particular, was a pop-operatic paean to working-class British culture, it is no surprise that, as his interest in being a rock star waned, Albarn should drop the pretense of being a mere popular entertainer. To that extent, he could be looked on as an English answer to Talking Heads’ David Byrne, who similarly tired of the conventions of rock music and has spent the past 25 years travelling wherever his muse leads (like Albarn’s it has, more often than not, carried him to Africa and the genre we mercifully no longer refer to as ‘world music’).
With Blur’s 2009 reunion and Gorillaz’ 2010 arena tour, it seemed that, having sweated such idiosyncrasies out of his system, Albarn was returning to his day-job. Were that the case, there is evidence that he didn’t particularly enjoy going back.
Blur have a big gig booked for the end of the Olympics; after that, Albarn indicated in a recent interview, the future of both that band and Gorillaz is in doubt (“No, I don’t think so,” was his response when asked whether Blur would ever enter the studio again).
Which brings us to Albarn’s two latest projects, the largely instrumental Rocket Juice And The Moon and Dr Dee, his second opera after 2007’s spectacular, thematically fuggy, Monkey: A Journey To The West.