The Nearer The Fountain, More Pure The Stream
You never know what to expect from the prolific and prophetic Damon Albarn. And that is a good thing. Whether it’s the brit alternative pop of Blur, with cut-gem songs like “Song 2” and “Girls and Boys,” or the hip-hop infused Gorillaz, that appeared like a modern miracle at the turn of the century and has kept going strong since, featuring some of the greatest collaborations of our time. Even his band The Good, The Bad, and The Queen, with its circusy arrangements and cheeky lyrics was something of a surprise.
His latest venture, a solo album called The Nearer The Fountain, More Pure The Stream, is yet another mind blowing direction for Albarn. Like he is wont to do on his solo albums, everything is a bit stripped down and subdued, compared to his other projects. It is a somewhat dark and apocalyptic record, and in a ghostly way it feels to me like perhaps David Bowie has passed the torch to his fellow UK champion. It has the measured pace of David Bowie’s forgotten albums, the resonant, British voice, the poetry that must be read to fully capture its ingenious poetry. It even has the saxophones.
The album starts heavy, thematically, with the title track, a eulogy which could have been written for the late Bowie, or for anyone who is near and dear to your heart. I wonder, as you probably will, given its palpable ache, who Albarn is memorializing. “You have gone / The dark journey that leaves no returning / It’s fruitless for me to mourn you / But who can help mourning.” “To think of life that did laugh on your face / in the beautiful past / left so desolate now.” “When youth seemed immortal / so sweet it did weave / Heavens halo around you.” The track is worth the price of the record, and brought me near to tears. One of the most beautiful songs about losing a loved one that I have ever heard.
That same sensitivity and artistry that Bowie displayed in his career appears throughout the record. There are no gimmicks about this record, just a dark heart that beats, perhaps for a planet that seems on the decline, for sure for a humanity that all share the same dark fate. The hope of the titular stream appears throughout the record, however. “The nearer the fountain / I’m saved.” It is an album of biblical proportions, with lyrical details like rain turning to snow and cormorants and the “Tower of Montevideo.”
If you go into this record, expecting his penchant for cheeky hits, you might be disappointed. Though there are a few that come close, like “Royal Morning Blue,” with it’s alt-British feel. But if you go in with an ear to listen to a real artist, who is dealing with the very real and very universal theme of loss, you may be moved deeply or to tears, with the eleven track offering.
Comparing this record to David Bowie is the highest compliment that I could give it, even his more subdued records. It is touching to see that even after we pass, our legacy can live on. When the time comes for Damon Albarn to sluff off this mortal coil, there will be someone, we hope, to carry his blazing torch for him. I would miss this guy.
Pre-order THE NEARER THE FOUNTAIN, MORE PURE THE STREAM FLOWS by Damon Albarn HERE