I just read a brief review I wrote of Demon Days that I don’t even recognize, not just because I have no memory of that album but because the person who wrote it has changed so much in the interim. I wrote it 10 years ago almost to the day and it’s safe to say that my musical tastes have changed but, more importantly, my knowledge of trip hop and hip hop has increased rather a lot since.
I must admit that I haven’t listened to anything Blur put out since 1997 or so but I wonder how different some of this music actually is. Albarn is a pretty distinctive singer-songwriter; he has both his songwriting tropes and his vocal tics. And both are out in full force here. At times I wonder how much the cartoon gimmick isn’t there just to hide how similar some of this music is to what Albarn would have been doing in Blur if his bandmates would have just let him.
I guess one of the reasons I’m pretty lukewarm on this record is that so much of what the other members bring feels like window dressing. Maybe that’s not fair but that’s what I hear. The songs featuring Del sound the most distinct because there’s someone other than Albarn providing vocals. But I guess if I concentrate more it’s the songs that feature prominent samples too which also sound the least like “vaguely trip hop Blur.”
There’s some stuff I like here. And I do wonder if I was right to “like” Demon Days more, if it is just the more mature record, i.e. it sounds less like Blur more of the time. (I wrote a positive review but claimed it wasn’t my thing. Trip hop is very much my thing so who knows what I was thinking.) But it’s hard to escape the shadow of Albarn’s former band on tracks like “Punk” and too many others. There are not enough tracks that sound distinctly like a new creation, to my ears, and the cartoon characters don’t trick me into feeling differently.
Maybe more listens would change my mind but I doubt I’ll ever get there.