EIGHT YEARS MORE-OR-LESS COMPLETELY AWAY FROM THE PUBLIC EYE FOLLOWING A DIFFICULT SECOND ALBUM SUGGESTS THAT DAMIEN RICE WILL HAVE GONE THROUGH A PERIOD OF TAKING STOCK.
9, a downbeat successor to the critically lauded and eventually ubiquitous debut O, was perceived as a disappointment despite reasonable commercial success. The relative artistic shortcomings of his sophomore effort (though the self-immolating 9 CRIMES remains one of his finest moments), and the disintegration of his professional relationship with ex-girlfriend and once-in-a-lifetime muse Lisa Hannigan, later led Rice to claim it had been at least half a record he’d not actually wanted to make. Initially, he’d planned on recording just one album but felt pressured to come up with a second. So the self-imposed exile which followed 9 appears to have been a period of coming to terms with not only the personal fallout, but with the entire notion of his role as a globally successful singer-songwriter. “Sometimes you have to step away from the thing you love in order to learn how to love it again,” he’s said since.
Rice’s third album – the eight-track MY FAVOURITE FADED FANTASY – is finally released this week. “It’s a long way back if you get lost,” he sings on LONG LONG WAY and “All these useless dreams of living alone / Like a dogless bone,” on one of his finest songs to date, COLOUR ME IN. Most of the songs on this Rick Rubin-produced album develop moods and change dynamics as they run their lengthy course. Opener MY FAVOURITE FADED FANTASY seems to reference Jeff Buckley’s dreamlike MOJO PIN (as good a place as any to start) with delicate electric guitar strokes and falsetto vocals opening out into a surprising climax: “I’ve never loved”. Piano-based IT TAKES A LOT TO KNOW A MAN – the most 9-like moment – stretches out across nine minutes into an ethereal orchestral coda that even occasionally disappointing lyrics can’t diminish. I DON’T WANT TO CHANGE YOU toys with both Celtic and ’60s soul melodies to surprising effect while THE GREATEST BASTARD is self-obsessed but raw and honest and, for that, painfully beautiful; from awareness to apology. Despite the demons – the trouble, the regret, the sadness – Rice is striding out from his exile with renewed purpose on MY FAVOURITE FADED FANTASY.
Buy MY FAVOURITE FADED FANTASY here