Damien Rice – O

The first time I heard Damien Rice’s album,O, I was on a train in Ireland going from from Dublin to Kerry. My friend had loaned me the album claiming it would blow me away and, as much as I hate to admit it, he was right. From the very first note I knew that O would instantly become one of my favorite albums of all time. Damien Rice has taken the art of acoustic song writing to a masterful level achieved by few. Damien’s voice is soothing, sexy, masculine, and feminine all at the same time. At some points on the album it sounds like he is crying and barely alive, while at other times his anger is so strong that you can almost feel his pain (excuse the cliche). As emotionally charged as O is, it appeals to almost anyone. Damien’s lyrics are raw, explicit, and relatable, not cheesy and sugarcoated.
Singing alongside with Damien for most of the album is Lisa Hannigan, whose voice is just as beautiful (if not more so) than Damien’s. Their interchanging vocals create a dialogue between two people not willing to admit they’re in love until it is too late. After 10 tracks of intense, unpretentious music, the album caps off with two hidden tracks, one by Damien and one by Lisa. The final songs are confessions from each of the characters admitting their true feelings and regrets. It is only in the last few seconds of the hour long album that the listener finally hears what has been going on in the characters’ minds.
Damien Rice intertwines various melodies, ranging from soft and sad to loud and aggressive. Instruments used on O include guitar, piano, strings, and even an opera singer. With all these factors combined, the listener is subject to soothing and mellow songs that grow and mature as the album progresses and the story behind the lyrics unfolds. The tracks literally bleed into each other, creating an album with few pauses. It is often difficult to tell where one song ends and another begins, except for a change in melody and often a drastic change in emotion. Take for example, the track “I Remember.” The song begins with Lisa singing a slow, soft melody, remembering how she felt the first time she met Damien’s character. There is a brief pause, and then Damien begins to sing, quiet at first then building up until he is screaming and the music is loud and vicious (for lack of a better word). It’s not anger that’s fueling Damien’s ‘outburst,’ it’s frustration and sadness: “I wanna hear what you have to say about me / I wanna hear how you’re gonna live without me.” These moments of ‘anger’ are countered with moments of calm and reason. Take for example the song “Cannonball”: “Still a little bit of your taste in my mouth / Still a little bit of you laced with my doubt / Still a little bit hard to say what’s going on.” And so the album and story unfold, and, if you’re anything like me, you will be close to tears almost every time you listen to O (sappy, I know). Unlike many lyricists, Damien Rice doesn’t hide his emotions behind metaphors and allegories, instead he is upfront and honest, baring all.
At the age of 26, Damien Rice has written one of the greatest and most creative albums of this generation. Damien grew up in County Kildare, Ireland, about an hour or so from Dublin, and, unfortunately, his fan base has yet to become international; finding O in North America is next to impossible. You can order the album from the Internet or have your local music store order it for you. Trust me, whatever the price, O is well-worth it. Damien performed at the CMJ festival in October 2002 and will be playing several shows in California in the coming months.
O is the kind of album you will listen to on repeat no matter what kind of mood you are in. So don’t wait until the album is released in North America, see if you can get your hands on it now. Damien Rice is definitely the breakthrough artist that today’s music scene has been waiting for. The world should prepare itself to be taken over by Damien Rice and be grateful for it.