Wednesday, March 28, 2007


Damien Rice released his debut album, O, in Ireland in 2001. I doubt you knew about him then unless you were an Irish resident at the time. My brother was just getting over his first big break-up, and brought the album home from Dublin one weekend, and I was instantly won over. The songs meant a lot to him, mainly for the bitter, caustic lyrics which he could relate to: "God may forgive me, but I, I whip myself with scorn" / "Cheers darlin', here's to you and your lover-boy...", etc.

Time went on, Damien Rice released a radio-friendly version of the song "Cannonball", the public went mad (long-time fans got mad) for the good-kid-done-heart-broken shtick. And consequently, Damien Rice became a household name. It took him close to six years to finally release his second album 9, much to the dismay of his fans. Irish animated piss-takers Eyebrowy made a sketch wherein an excited Damien Rice talks with his secretary on the phone. The conversation topic? The possibility of once again re-releasing O, this time in America: "What's the title they're thinking of? 'Cannonball Plus Nine Other Songs'?! That's brilliant! Why didn't I think of that?! Yea, tell them to go ahead with it!" Slightly scathing, perhaps, but definitely not without a grain of truth. In between the release of the O and the eventual release of 9 came a plethora of singles, re-releases, and of course the B-Sides album (which is, in itself, fantastic).

Many fans rejoiced when 9 was finally released. Some just replied, "Damien Rice? Who's he again?" No matter. It's a quality album with some brilliant tracks; some critics say it surpasses O, but for me that's definitely not the case - perhaps due to my emotional connections with the album, or perhaps due to O actually being the stronger album. [Buy]

Damien Rice - Radio 3FM

9 Crimes (live on Radio 3FM)
Rootless Tree (live on Radio 3FM)

Anyway I thought it was time to share some Damien Rice with you all. You'll notice that the piano that characterised lead single, "9 Crimes", is absent - replaced by guitar. Lisa Hannigan's vocal contribution is fantastic, as always. Piano takes main-place on "Rootless Tree", softening a song that before was an angry mess of fucked-off vocals and reckless guitar playing - Damien Rice creates an emotional ballad out of a song that was originally titled "Fuck You"; impressive. [Buy]

Damien Rice - KCRW

Delicate (live on KCRW)
Volcano (live on KCRW)
The Blower's Daughter (live on KCRW)

Perhaps the greatest strength of O's construction was the plentiful use of strings to add drama and emotion; thus it's interesting to see how the songs fare without any tricks - songs rendered as songs; simply guitar and voice; a father telling a story to a child and then seeing how well "the story of O" holds up when not seen in a cinema with SFX-galore. And the songs, like good stories, fare very well indeed.

Damien Rice - Extras

I Remember (live on Letterman)
Creep (Radiohead cover live on Today FM)

"I Remember" was one of my favourite tracks off O, for various reasons: the lyrics, including the line "I remember December"; the way it starts like a ballad and then veers off-course into a chaotic emotional frenzy. If you compare and contrast Radiohead's acoustic version of "Creep" (to be heard on the My Iron Lung EP), to Damien Rice's, then the latter is thoroughly underwhelming. Still grand though.


Benjamin Costello

Volcano (Damien Rice cover)
Older Chests (Damien Rice cover)

Nothing to say about these other than: they're enjoyable covers. Benjamin Costello is currently working on recording his first album.