Mercury nominees 2014: Damon Albarn

The third of our Mercury prize profiles – counting down to the big day on 30 October – it’s the Blur and Gorillaz man who has matured into British music’s greatest polymath

Mercury nominees: Bombay Bicycle Club
Mercury nominees: Anna Calvi

Who? An extensive biography may be a little beyond us considering Albarn’s seven albums with Blur, four albums with Gorillaz, scores for two films, compositions for two operas, albums with Good the Bad and the Queen and Rocket Juice & the Moon; his continuing work with Africa Express, guest appearances on albums by Massive Attack and Tony Allen, and production for the late Bobby Womack. He’s got a gold tooth and his dad used to manage the 60s experimental rock group Soft Machine. Hopefully that list will suffice. If not, read this very comprehensive recent Guardian interview.

The album: Everyday Robots.

Previous releases to date (thanks, Wikipedia):

Leisure (1991)
Modern Life Is Rubbish (1993)
Parklife (1994)
The Great Escape (1995)
Blur (1997)
13 (1999)
Think Tank (2003)

Mali Music – 2002 (with Afel Bocoum, Toumani Diabaté & Friends)
The Good, the Bad and the Queen – 2007 (with Tony Allen, Paul Simonon and Simon Tong)
Kinshasa One Two – 2011 (as part of DRC Music)
Rocket Juice and the Moon – 2012 (with Flea and Tony Allen)
Maison Des Jeunes – 2013 (with Africa Express)
Everyday Robots – 2014

Democrazy – 2003
Live from SoHo (iTunes Exclusive EP) – 2007 (with The Good, the Bad and the Queen)
Leave-Taking – 2012 (with Rocket Juice and the Moon)

Film, opera and theatre soundtracks
Ravenous – 1999 (with Michael Nyman)
101 Reykjavík – 2002 (with Einar Örn Benediktsson)
Monkey: Journey to the West – 2008
Dr Dee – 2012

What we said: “Beautiful, but subtle, cloudy and elusive, Everyday Robots certainly isn’t the album it’s purported to be. You come out of the other side not much the wiser about the man behind it. Never mind: the music is good enough that a lack of revelation doesn’t really seem to matter while Everyday Robots is playing. Whoever Damon Albarn is, he’s extremely good at what he does.”

What he said: “Well, it’s an album about love, loss, getting older and learning to live with that. I’m not consciously melancholic; in fact I am often the opposite – boisterous and outgoing. So that melancholy feel may come from the way I use certain chords, which, as it happens, is very similar to certain English folk singers.”

Notable Mercury-friendly accolades: There is no argument against the polymath’s impact on the contemporary cultural landscape, from the definitive Britpop sound to his landmark Gorillaz creations and his genre-hopping projects in between; his whole prolific career is one Mercury-friendly melting pot, best surmised by one collaborator who declared him more “a conductor or a composer than a pop musician”.

Likelihood to win: Every flat surface in his house may be adorned with awards, but Albarn has never actually won this particular prize, despite being nominated in both his Blur and Gorillaz guises. While Blur missed out on the prize for both Parklife and 13 (to M People and Talvin Singh respectively, believe it or not), Gorillaz instead rejected their nomination, with Murdoc Niccals, the cartoon bassist of the band, describing the prize as “like carrying a dead albatross round your neck for eternity”. If he can be forgiven for his fabricated bandmate’s statement, then maybe, just maybe. Odds are currently at 12/1.

Stream the album:


Guardian music

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