Extraordinary hotel-room musings in vinyl-only form

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Damon Albarn – Demo Crazy
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Last summer while on tour with Blur, a wasted-sounding Damon Albarn recorded a bunch of improvised song ideas on a four-track in hotel rooms across America. Now he’s released them in a limited edition of 5000 vinyl copies. On first hearing the results are shocking, even embarrassing. The 14 tracks are several notches below even demo stage. These are mere pre-song fragments, using a badly tuned acoustic guitar and instrumentation Albarn might have borrowed from his daughter’s playroom?melodica, harmonium, paper-and-comb. The lyrics aren’t so much diary jottings as observations (“I was at the Niagara Falls today, and they really didn’t make me want to jump in”). On “Five Star Life”, it sounds like he’s recorded his doorbell. On the closer, “End Of Demo Crazy”, you hear someone using the bathroom. Yet listen closely and you hear how these less-than-half-formed ideas could easily become mature songs, for within them are snatches of great tunes and inventive rhythms bursting with imagination. Every great Blur song must have started life in similarly inchoate form; what Albarn is offering us is a rare and fascinating glimpse into the raw stuff of the creative process. Audacious or indulgent? Take your pick. But few artists of similar stature have ever exposed themselves quite so nakedly. And for that Albarn should be applauded.