Eight years ago, Damien Rice – following two hugely successful and recognised albums – took a step back from a career that was the epitome of the phrase “always leave them wanting more.” Such was the popularity of 2002’s O and 2006’s 9 that you wouldn’t find many people predicting that his next release would take exactly eight years to get to.
Since those seminal albums, the Irishman has been seen only fleetingly with various contributions to compilation records giving us rare reminders of his talent. So when My Favourite Faded Fantasy was officially announced in September universal excitement set in. Could Rice reappear in an ever changing music world and still hold his own? The answer: a resounding ‘yes.’
The album doesn’t see Rice transition far from his roots but there’s a confidence here of a man who appears to have gone away, rediscovered who he is and come back with a collection of songs that are as reflective and personal as ever before.
Some of the tracks run long but it seems necessary. Rice isn’t an artist to listen to if you’re in a hurry – he’s a story teller, a master of the soulful monologue and with every step along the album there’s more of a sense of introspective satisfaction. The title track that starts the album involves a number of orchestral instruments that sit behind that vulnerable vocal that so many fell in love with all those years ago. It’s a bold introduction for what’s to follow.
‘It Takes A Lot To Know A Man’ gives an insight into part of his journey over the last few years with lyrics like “It takes a lot to give, to ask for help / To be yourself, to know and love what you live with/ It takes a lot to breathe, to touch, to feel/ The slow reveal of what another body needs” repeating towards the middle of the song that ends with exotic sounding instrumentals.
‘The Greatest Bastard’ runs directly into ‘I Don’t Want To Change You’ with the agony of relationships on the rocks coming to the fore. The former is a song that questions a number of things that the protagonist assumed he did right in a partnership and the latter more of a desire for the object of his desire to be happy no matter what it takes. Both may have been a reflection on the broken down relationship between Rice and former girlfriend and singing partner Lisa Hannigan but whoever the muse is there’s a hugely relatable pain in the vocals that are typical Rice.
‘Colour Me In’ is another that could easily have been pulled from O or 9 whilst ‘The Box’ is a defiant, and eventually a passionate, message about not fitting into a role that’s being placed on him.
‘Trusty and True’ begins a close to the album that is more of acceptance than the previous reflections. It’s another slow builder that bursts with a sense that everything’s going to be alright in the end.
‘Long Long Way’ provides the finality to end this particular story and is a raw look back at how he got to where he is today. “Long long way to the top / Long way down if you fall / And it’s a long way back if you get lost,” seem simple lines but with the atmospheric surroundings of the song you can’t help but connect to the journey that Rice has been on in the time he’s been away.
Sometimes to leave a legacy doesn’t mean rolling out record after record year on year and Damien Rice has shown with My Favourite Faded Fantasy that everything he does means something and that is to his great credit. It’s not a ‘return to form’ – there was no loss of it – but simply a continuation of a wonderful musician’s gift to the world.