WELCOME BACK, BASTARD
My Favourite Faded Fantasy is an important and a pivoting album for the Irish singer-songwriter, who’s been known for music that aches the heart. Not only is this the first album he’s released in the last eight years (the last one being 9 back in 2006), it is also the first album he’s cut without his ever compatible female vocalist, Lisa Hannigan.
No pressure, Damien, not at all!
Suffice to say, to ardent Rice fans out there, My Favourite Faded Fantasy can never compare to the age old beauty in the days of O and 9, mainly because Rice’s music has always been a collective effort with Hannigan; listening to this third studio album, is like breathing without an arm. But all crippled beings overcome their loss of limbs, and since Hannigan has once proclaimed to NME during Optimus Alive 2012 that “I don’t think I’ll work with Damien Rice again,” what’s a fella to do but clean himself up, and carry on making music without his once consistent sidekick?
Replacing precedent once again on guitar riffs over piano chords, Rice opens his third collection of grief-stricken songs on as sad a note as he can muster with the title track. There and then, it’s not rocket science that it’s going to be an album with Hannigan embedded deeply in mind. The song title says it all, together with lyrics like “I could love you more than life / If I wasn’t so afraid” and “Never let someone go / I ain’t never loved like you.” Hannigan’s afterglow continues to burn like dying ember on tracks like ‘The Greatest Bastard’ and ‘I Don’t Want to Change You’ as easily detected as on the hiatus track ‘The Connoisseur of Great Excuse’ Rice wrote back in 2010 for the compilation album Gasoline Rainbows in light of the BP oil spill.
However, echoes of Rice’s past romanticism are not totally lost on this album. ‘The Greatest Bastard’ still holds playful riffs akin to that of b-side ‘The Rat within the Grain’, and quirky lyrics of “I helped you open up your wings / Your legs and many other things, didn’t I?” once heard in the likes of “I love your depression and I love your double chin” on ‘The Animals Were Gone’ from 9, and “Why do you sing Hallelujah / If it means nothing to you / Why do you sing with me at all?” on O’s opening track ‘Delicate’.
The other half of My Favourite Faded Fantasy consists of reflective episodes of a man who has found clarity – the been-there-done-that ‘It Takes a Lot to Know a Man’, the I’m-here-if-you-need-me-but-not-that-I’m-saying-you-still-need-me-but-whatever ‘I Don’t Want to Change You’, and the hopeful and optimistic ‘Trusty and True’.
Last but not the least, no Rice album is ever complete without a powerful closing. Whilst O has its operatic crescendo for ‘Eskimo’ and 9 its ultimately melancholic ‘Sleep Don’t Weep’ and the comforting 19-minute long droning of the Tibetan bowl, Rice gets by with a little help from his friends for the closing track of My Favourite Faded Fantasy – featuring old friends Joel Shearer and Cora Venus Lunny; with Marketa Irglova standing in for Hannigan (borrowed from Swell Season’s Glen Hansard, we suspect; what’s with Irishmen and their female counterparts anyway?); Alex Somers, one half of Riceboy Sleeps and long-time boyfriend to Jonsi from this post rock band you might have heard of, Sigur Ros; and that old familiar drawl of ‘Cold Water’ as Rice finishes off with as much heartache as he has gathered since the start of the album with the repetitive “Not enough, not enough, not enough…”
Is My Favourite Faded Fantasy indeed “not enough” for Rice fans out there? Perhaps. But there’s no point crying over spilled milk, is there? Sure, he was a bastard and he screwed up potential greatness with Lisa Hannigan in futures not to be foreseen anymore, but at least he has returned. And whatever he has cooked up in the past eight years, it’s not “great”, but it is definitely “enough”.
LISTEN TO: ‘The Greatest Bastard’
IF YOU LIKE THIS YOU’LL DIG: Mélanie Laurent
1. My Favourite Faded Fantasy
2. It Takes A Lot to Know a Man
3. The Greatest Bastard
4. I Don’t Want to Change You
5. Colour Me In
6. The Box
7. Trusty and True
8. Long Long Way