Aug 24 – Album Overview and Review

Got some free time on my hands. I’ve wanted to do this for a while. Next Album on my agenda Great Lake Swimmers. Enjoy…(If anyone even bothers to read this).  Oh, also check out my new pics on Facebook. There are finally some of my mountain adventure. I’ll post a blog on this soon.

 

O

 

This is Damien Rice’s debut album. It was released in 2002 and despite lacking in commercial tunes did quite well (over 2 million copies sold) For many years it has been a favorite of mine. While this album deals with many themes the central one seems to stem from the title. O comes from a line in the song “Amie:” Amie come sit on my wall and read me the story of O. This was changed from the original line that used to exist in the Juniper song (Damien’s old band, which after he left turned into Bell X1): Read me the story of Love. The former refers to the cyclical nature of Love, at least in Damien’s world. His relationships seem to start with an obsession, which leads to anger and jealousy, which leads to the demise of the partnership and then when all is lost he left with the irreparable feeling of loss and returned obsession. This is evident in many of his songs, monologues and interviews and is certainly a pervasive theme throughout this album.

 

Delicate.

 

I think this story might be the root of his love for Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah – one of about two total songs that he covers, but of which he plays very often. I believe that the girl in this song is the same girl that he obsessive over in The Blower’s Daughter and perhaps others such as Amie and I Remember. The reason I’m fairly certain the girl is the same as The Blower’s Daughter is because of her musicality. In the third song on this album he is singing about his Clarinet teacher’s daughter. I imagine she has some musical ability, which may have allowed her to sing him Cohen’s tune in such a captivating way.

 

Throughout the verses Rice keeps using the phrase “we might,” which suggests that the events that follow are more fantasy than reality. This girl does not seem to feel what Damien does and perhaps knows nothing of his obsession nor does she think anything of singing to him. He on the other hand is in pain around her and is almost angry with her for singing such a meaningful song to him when the words, which are not her own, are used with such disregard. He ponders why she did such a thing to him.

 

Volcano.

 

            This is another song Damien wrote while with his former band Juniper. Originally it was just the first verse in which Damien is describing his fatal flaw, which is to turn into a complete asshole when a relationship has progressed to far. It’s why all of his relationships have ended, including his partnership with Lisa Hannigan, the female vocalist on his two albums. The verse tells how he pushes his love away, even when she is begging him to stay with her. He warned her not to get close to him as he has the capacity to blow his top and destroy and good thing. No matter what she can offer him he will want something else. An analogy he once used before a performance was going to the fridge and reaching for a carton of milk. He takes a drink and spits it out because it is actually juice. The juice is perfectly good, but it’s not milk. Rice explains in the chorus how this behavior does not reflect his true feelings but instead is most likely a defense mechanism.

 

In the additional verse, the roles are flipped. Now that Damien has chased away this girl all he can think of is getting her back. Through his passion he still finds the frame of mind to know that she is better off without him and all his baggage.

 

“You do not need me.”

 

The Blower’s Daughter

 

            As I have already mentioned, this song is about his obsession with his Clarinet teacher’s daughter. Perhaps more interesting than the description of Damien’s exaggerated story is the story of the making of this song and how it lead to the formation of the entire album.

 

In 1998 Damien left his Dublin-based rock band due to frustrations with the music industry. He moved to Italy and lived in a small farmhouse that was isolated from its surroundings by a treacherous dirt road. He had to drive a jeep just to navigate the potholes. For however long he was there he simply subsisted on his own vegetables. Eventually, as he had no source of income, and because music quickly called him back, he started busking around Europe.

 

Later he would borrow money from his parents to record the demo version of The Blower’s Daughter. I find it nowhere near as good as the final recording on the album but it was good enough to strike a chord with a distant relative, who just happened to be in the “the biz.” Though he had never met Damien he decided to take a chance on him anyway and lent him somewhere around $10, 000 to purchase a mobile recording studio. After many months of work with his new band mates (Tomo on drums and vocals, Shane on Bass, Vyvienne Long on Cello and Lisa Hannigan on assisting vocals) he had a finished product but it was not up to his own standards. He broke the news to his relative that the album simply would not do and that he needed more time and money. Amazingly the relative was still compliant and thankfully so because eventually this little gem found its way into existence.

 

Cannonball

 

            These are getting pretty long so I might cut to the chase on this one. Another one of Damien’s radio hits, this song is again about his initial, honeymoon stage obsession with a girl leading to the destruction of their relationship. He becomes so immersed in this girl that he can’t see what is really happening (like if you put your hand close enough to your face it eventually just goes blurry). For whatever reason, Damien becomes a completely different person when he is in Love and is in fact harshest to those he cares about. Surprisingly, this song actually ends on a bit of a up note. Though he has killed a thing that he once loved he accepts that he does not understand the situation and feels he can grow from the experience due to this lack of idealism (i.e. “It’s not hard to grow when you know that you just don’t know”) -pretty cool interview on this one.

 

Older Chests

 

I think the only thing I’ll say about this one is that when Damien wrote it he pictured two old men sitting on a bench and gawking at how much things around them had changed. There are other subplots to this song but I feel like it doesn’t relate as much to the central theme of the album. Still a great song though and certainly not entirely displaced.

 

Amie

 

            The story goes like this. Damien was living with his parents in Dublin. One night he got a call from this girl. She wanted him to come over. He was excited by the idea but it was already late and he would have to take two buses to get to her. She convinced him to make the journey anyway. When he got there it was very late and she said he could sleep in her bed. Basically he thought he had hit the jackpot until she followed up by saying that her roommate was out of town and she would sleep in her room.

 

Crushed but still excited Damien, as he once said, spent “…some time with himself.” Afterwards he watched an airplane fly overhead as he reflected in his more mellow state. The next morning he recorded the first version of this song in his parent’s kitchen.

 

Another element to this song is Damien’s hope for peace, love and all that good stuff in the approaching new millennium (he wrote this song ‘98). I already addressed the significance of the Story of O. Basically this song is a sort of pledge to be a better person and hopefully see a better world in the year 2000.

 

Cheers Darlin’

 

            A man walks into a bar…

Damien bumped into a woman on his way into a pub. He felt bad and so he bought her a drink, which turned into several I believe. They hung out and talked for a while but as the night was coming to a close she said “I have to go now, my boyfriend is picking me up.”

 

Damien was heart broken, but what could he do? He had spent all of his money on this woman and could no longer afford a taxi home – and of course it was raining outside. Before leaving the woman gave Damien 3 cigarettes as a thanks for the evening. I’m not certain on the details of the rest of the night but I heard he just kind of bummed around for a while, smoking the cigs and at one point he stopped to buy a can of tuna or beans or something. This song is basically the drunk ramblings of  a man who feels used and regretful.

 

This story further develops in the hidden track Prague. This same woman is now getting married to the man who picked her up that night. Damien has been invited to the wedding but faces an internal battle because of his feelings for this woman.

 

Cold Water

 

            This song reminds me Red Chord by the Frames. Both songs address the idea of calling out to a higher power during times of distress. The way Damien explains it is that we breathe all the time without thinking about it and take it for granted because of that. But if someone were to cut of your breath for one minute you would want nothing more in your life than to take a single breath again. He claims that this is what dying would be like. You may not appreciate things in your life as they are but if you know you are going to die you all of the sudden gain a fresh perspective. This all probably relates back to his relationships. Only when it is ending does he realize what he really had. At that point all there is to do is cry out to God, or whoever (Damien doesn’t really believe in the traditional Monotheistic God).

 

I Remember

 

            This song started out as a hopeful, sort of uplifting song. The part that Hannigan sings existed in that form only for a few weeks. Then, as Damien says in one of his performances “…then she kindly fucked me over” or at another performance “she dusssshed me in the balls.” It’s probably a good thing that she did, for this song anyway, because other wise it would have been only about 2mins long.

 

Very unhappy with the couple different versions he tried with his band Juniper he threw it away for many years and did not bring it out again until he was recording in a house in Dublin. He and Vyvienne were deep into some Whiskey and Damien presented it like it was a new song. Her and Lisa really like it and Lisa ended up stealing the lead on the first bit for the recording. Now it exists as a beautiful call and answer song, with Damien going ballistic at the end.

 

Eskimo

 

I have no fucking clue what this song is about. All I know is that he recorded it in his friends’ apartment because they really liked it.  The ending is rather cool. Him and Lisa sing the last two stanzas in Finnish. It translates to:

 

Touch me

Not with your hands

But so that I feel you

 

Hug me

Not with your hands

But within your soul

 

 

It’s late and I’m tired. Beautiful records so check it out if you haven’t already. And for those of you who are wondering how the hell I have time to do these things, check out this site:

 

http://www.theminimalists.com/

 

 

More on this later.

 

 

 

 

 

            

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