Originally published in the Metro Herald on Monday 10th November 2014 //
DAMIEN RICE: My Favourite Faded Fantasy
Vector recordings ★★★✩✩
After a self-imposed exile that lasted eight years, Ireland’s most féted troubadour makes his much anticipated return. Those wilderness years were certainly tumultuous, with an acrimonious split from linchpin collaborator and partner Lisa Hannigan a notable sore-point.
This is business as usual for Rice, though. The earnest, whispery vocals and gentle instrumentation of the title track make for a beautiful opener, but thereafter it’s a mixed bag. The Greatest Bastard is generic acoustic fodder but is followed by the utterly compelling I Don’t Want To Change You and across its eight tracks the album fluctuates between states of forgettable and fantastic.
Lyrically, this treads no new ground. The simple rhyming couplets will attract derision, but generally there’s a noticeable lack of insight, particularly for an artist who is so rooted in self-examination. And such examination is certainly drawn out, with only one track less than five minutes in length here.
A voice as enchanting as Hannigan’s was always going to be a loss and this is offset with an increased orchestral presence. When it works – most noticeably on The Box’s dramatic finale – it’s a treat and when on form, no one can match Rice for emotive, melancholic balladry. A decent, if slightly uninspiring return.