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Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Democrazy – Damon Albarn (2003)

I pulled this one out whilst looking through my 10” singles and realized that it was now 10 years old. It’s hardly a lost classic though, but it is notable for the fact that one of the tracks – I Need a Gun, became the Gorillaz song Dirty Harry. Democrazy is a bunch of demos recorded by Albarn on the Blur tour of the U.S. after the release of the awesome Think Tank (2003) album. Released on Albarn’s own Honest Jons (sic) label, it’s a bit of a vanity project but in hindsight it can be seen as a record store day release years before the concept was born. Only 5000 copies were made of this double 10” coloured vinyl record – total RSD fodder.

All the tracks are totally low-fi and sound like they were recorded late at night in hotel rooms after Albarn retired from the bar. I Need a Gun is Gorillaz style Casio funk – you can hear why it developed into Dirty Harry. Reedz is an atmospheric keyboard instrumental. Half a Song is one of the most fully formed tracks, with plaintive double tracked vocals over acoustic guitar. Five Star Life is a meditation on the pressures of modern pop life complete with a doorbell rhythm and funky bass line.

The rest of the album follows the same path – short woozy demos using minimal instrumentation. Albarn gets his harmonium out for Sub Species, in which he sings “Drunken in the evening, running during the day.” It sounds like it! The last track – End of Democrazy, has saucepan like percussion sounds as he laments “I stay up every night singing when I should be sleeping.”  There are a few of these lyrical insights into Albarn’s on tour state of mind. No doubt he was still sad about the departure of Graham Coxon, making Democrazy a kind of sketchy and frazzled tour diary. If you think of it like that then it makes more sense, otherwise the album comes across as a little self – indulgent.

I don’t believe that Albarn had meant to make some great artistic statement with Democrazy. It comes across as a deliberately made collectable curio that gives some insight into the creative process and Blur/Albarn fans something to lust after. The packaging is really something, with a cutout cover that folds around from the back. The artwork looks like it’s by Albarn's own hand. Inside he references the great Fela Kuti – “Democrazy is a Fela Kuti concept,” which makes me think that the album title is a play on the word democracy. Housed inside are the two 10” records, one white vinyl and the other a picture-disc featuring a peace dinosaur. Makes sense to me. If you want one of these then you can still buy it on Amazon for about 45 pounds. I’m sure there’s some on E-bay, but I can’t look – I’ve banned myself due to the risk of spending too much money!

You can listen to the entire album here.

Friday, 3 May 2013

Zaireeka Listening Party - Planet Music Mt Lawley

Zaireeka vinyl fun at Planet

Last night I went to Planet Music’s Zaireeka listening party, lured by the promise of hearing this album for only the second time in a decade. I first heard Zaireeka about eight years ago in my own lounge-room via the 4 CD version owned by a friend of mine. Due to my condition that night I can’t remember much about it, except that it was a great Flaming Lips album and that the last track was about Coyne’s dogs. My vague memories of Zaireeka being a great album were confirmed last night when my friends and I were joined by 30 odd other Lips freaks to hear the four disc vinyl version of the album.

Zaireeka is now perhaps the ultimate vinyl fetish object – four records of different colours designed to be played simultaneously. The album is beautiful woozy psychedelia, full of their typical heavy melodic playfulness. Over the years I’ve resisted listening to one source versions on Youtube recorded at listening parties, primarily to keep the concept of the album pure. It’s meant to be listened to by a group of people using all four discs in order to foster togetherness. Also each time the experience is unique due to human error and equipment variation, something that would be lost using one source.

I was tempted to spend $120 on the vinyl version but I doubt I’d ever play it; I’d just look at it occasionally. I have a feeling that my friends and I will be setting up four compact disc players soon enough, much easier than four turntables. Thanks to Planet Music for hosting the event and apologies for stealing your photo – stupidly I neglected to take any photos of my own!