Last week saw the return of Kildare native Damien Rice as he released My Favourite Faded Fantasy, his third studio album and his first in eight years. Is it a brave move to return after such a lengthy hiatus? The release of U2’s Songs Of Innocence was met with cries of ‘they’re no longer relevant’ after holding off for over five years. Would the same apply to Damo?
Not only was this Rice’s first release in eight years but it was also the first that doesn’t feature the hushed tones of Lisa Hannigan. Some have tried to downplay Hannigan’s role in Rice’s success but her involvement, many will argue, is more than just a cameo. Hers is the last voice you hear on Rice’s debut O and the one that featured heavily in his sophomore effort 9 especially in the stunning 9 Crimes. In a recent interview with the Irish Independent, Rice revealed that he had asked Hannigan to help him record My Favourite Faded Fantasy but sadly, for fans of their previous collaborative offerings, she rejected his request.
The former couple’s relationship fell apart shortly after the release of 9 with Rice citing his difficulty in coming to terms with fame as the reason. ‘I wasn’t happy, but I was in a position where I was theoretically supposed to be happy. And if I’m not happy in that situation, then I become a miserable, unappreciative git.’ All hope of the pair working together in the future isn’t entirely lost but Rice feels it will only happen in a live setting.
Rice admitted to writing almost a hundred songs for the album that he somehow managed to whittle down to eight; a process which most would imagine to be painstaking. Not for Rice, however. He decided simply to choose the songs that he enjoyed listening to most. ‘There are a bunch of songs that I think are beautiful recordings and I’m proud of them, but I’ve no interest in listening to them.’
He may have been on hiatus for eight years but his influence on many of the singer/songwriters we’ve grown to know and love is huge. Ed Sheeran admitted that a chance meeting with Rice when he was 11 after one of his shows was the catalyst behind his desire to become a musician while Paolo Nutini revealed that he first picked up a guitar having been inspired by the video for Volcano from O he’d seen on VH1.
Despite the absence of Hannigan, My Favourite Faded Fantasy is superb from start to finish. Highlights include The Greatest Bastard which is typical of Rice’s ability to disarm the listener with its honesty and frankness. It Takes A Lot To Know A Man on the other hand is a stark contrast to the Damien Rice we are used to. The tenderness we’ve become accustomed to has been replaced with harsh, almost vitriolic undertones.
With a sell-out show at The Bord Gáís Energy Theatre on Monday receiving rave reviews, it’s official; Damien Rice is back. It’s not the Damien Rice who disappeared in 2006, but this version is every bit as talented. With Rice expected to go back in to the studio in January, we can’t wait to hear what those other 92 songs have to offer.
Follow Niall Swan on Twitter @NiallMacSuain