ISSUE #8 FEB 06

Alex Pegg

Damien Rice
"O"

10th June 2005
reviewer: Alex Pegg
rating: 5 out of 5
published by: East West
released: 28th July 2003
  1. Delicate
  2. Volcano
  3. The Blower's Daughter
  4. Cannonball
  5. Older Chests
  6. Amie
  7. Cheers Darlin'
  8. Cold Water
  9. I Remember
  10. Eskimo

Earnest singer songwriters strumming guitars (head-wobbling is optional) are ten a penny these days so what’s a man to do to stand out from the crowd? Well you could wear a comedy woolly hat (like Badly Drawn Boy) or you could write and record the debut album of the year. Wisely, Damien Rice has chosen the second option.

The album starts with the quietest acoustic guitar playing a simple tune. You could almost imagine you’d stumbled into the start of a set in your local Irish theme bar. The whole album has a very acoustic vibe to it. Guitars are, for the most part, softly played, the drums are brushed and violins are used sparingly to give the sound a rich, warm feel. This allows the tunefulness of the songs and Damien’s vocals to shine perfectly.

The songs themselves cover life, love, love lost and, um, Eskimos. More often than not these acoustic style albums can become dull and worthy over their entire length with not enough tunes to go round. Not here. Each song has been polished until you can almost here it shine. There are too many magic moments to list. But I’ll try: The beautiful chorus of ‘Delicate’; the violins climaxing at the end of ‘Amie’; the “Ice Dropped In A Glass” percussion and almost woozy vocal that perfectly captures the drunken remorse of a jilted lover on ‘Cheers Darlin’'; the male voice choir on the chorus of ‘Cold Water’; the anger in Damien's voice on ‘I Remember’ when he sings “I wanna hear what you have to say about me, hear if your gonna live without me” that comes as such a shock and the operatic swell of voices at the end ‘Eskimo’. It all goes to make an album where every track has something to offer. No filler here.

Like most truly great albums it transcends its components to become something greater than its parts, it is both delicate and robust at the same time. Its like watching TV on a black and white portable set only for it to turn into a 32” Colour wide screen halfway through. It possesses the power to raise the hairs on the back of your neck. Where he goes from here, I don’t know. But he won't need to wobble his head or get his mother to knit him a woolly hat just yet.

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