Tuesday, 20 May 2014

1 To Z: Damon Albarn - 'Mr Tembo'

It's been a while since I did a '1 To Z' entry. Yes, the feature where I am gradually building up a big list of every band and artist that features in my record collection. I'm supposed to be doing it alphabetically, so featuring Damon Albarn AFTER Alkaline Trio and Brett Anderson seems a tad wrong. However, I was going to feature Damon weeks ago before Alkaline Trio, but decided to wait until I'd heard all of 'Everyday Robots' before picking a track. Of course I could have picked lots of brilliant Albarn solo tracks pre-2014, but thought it would be nice to wait for the album. Now the album has been out a few weeks (and provided the Blur legend with a number 2 chart placing) the time is right. And in a rather nice bit of timing, an official video for the wonderful 'Mr Tembo' has just been unveiled. The video features Damon and his band The Heavy Seas, as well as footage of the real Mr Tembo - the gospel-loving, orphaned baby elephant in Tanzania who inspired the song. The song was included on the Everyday Robots album at the suggestion of producer Richard Russell, Damon originally wrote the track in Africa solely for the enjoyment of his family. The video is filmed at the Pentecostal City Mission Church in Leytonstone, London, and features the church choir, who also sing on the album track.

In the bright shuffle of 'Mr Tembo' we get a joyous ode to a Tanzanian elephant, musically resembling an African-flavoured echo of The Clash. There's even a surprising, deadpan, London-tinged half-rap. On the surface it doesn't seem to fit in with the rest of the otherwise downbeat album, but look a little deeper into the context of 'Everyday Robots' and you find a reminder of the simple joy of nature, something perhaps being neglected in the digital age. The fact that its subject is part of an endangered species coming close to extinction also embeds a hidden poignancy. Read my full review of 'Everyday Robots' HERE.

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