There’s nothing quite like an existential crisis to stoke the embers of a new album. Show me a folk artist who hasn’t had some sort of breakdown and I’ll show you Liam Gallagher not being a tit.
Damien Rice has been in the wilderness (or Iceland, more specifically) for 8 years. From what I can gather, he’s spent that time growing numerous photo-worthy beards, looking a bit like a tramp and surfing the apparent waves of his mind. This came after the discovery that material wealth and critical acclaim doesn’t guarantee happiness. So we can at least deduce that he’s ahead of about 98% of the population on insight.
Enough of my slights on society; did Rice have a great album lurking in that shaggy hairdo? Well, yes, as it happens.
Sweeping crescendos, haunting string sections, delicate riffs and a fragile and yet angrily loaded voice; My Favorite Faded Fantasy has all the hallmarks of a Damien Rice album. Everything that made O and 9 Crimes so beautiful is very much still in play. What Rice is telling are new stories. And blimey, don’t they bite.
‘The Greatest Bastard’ should come with some sort of warning label: Do not listen post break-up. Lyrically it’s a stab to the heart. Melodically it’s gorgeous, both on guitar and vocally. Together they hold you by the throat for 4 minutes before building to a climax that ultimately retreats back to the quiet, lonely finger-picking of the start. Bring tissues.
‘Trusty and True’ has the definite sound of Rice’s homeland, whilst ‘I Don’t Want to Change You’ delivers a signature orchestral ebb and flow and is unapologetically vulnerable. ‘It Takes A Lot To Know A Man’ is a brave 9 minute undertaking, but Rice’s creative freedom is tangible here, building momentum like a freight train before relenting to those piercing strings again.
Do not skip tracks or try to unpick this album. Pour a glass of wine, stick on some really good headphones, and enjoy the whole 50 or so minutes in their entirety.
Rice doesn’t care if My Favourite Faded Fantasy is a commercial success, which pretty much guarantees that it will be. By the sounds of this record, he seems to be learning that desire often breeds only pain. Here’s hoping he doesn’t have to go away for so long before album number 4.