Amid the various winding roads, dead ends and hiatuses in Blur's history it's surprising that it's taken Damon Albarn almost a quarter of a century to release a solo record. His dalliances with Gorillaz, and the somewhat part-time nature of Blur nowadays, has taken up the majority of his time over the years, rarely leaving room for the purest distillation of Albarn's creative energy. Anyone expecting a redux of the happy-go-lucky pop musings of Blur or the upbeat, dancefloor fillers of Gorillaz will have to tune their ears to something altogether darker and more languid on Everyday Robots, Albarn's most personal work to date.

Thematically speaking, Everyday Robots rarely shifts above second gear. The pace it maintains shows its creator to be in a very contemplative mood, the self portrait of melancholy as Damon wistfully recalls trips abroad to an African nature preserve ('Mr Tembo'), or bemoans the overreliance on technology and impersonal communication ('Everyday Robots'). Nothing is off limits here, it seems, as Albarn opens up about his past heroin use in 'You and Me', singing "Digging out a hole in Westbourne Grove/Tinfoil and a lighter, the ship across/five days on, two days off".

Producer Richard Russell is responsible for most of what you hear on the record having been given the sonic reins by Albarn and, in the absence of the wizardry of Graham Coxon, affords Damon a lush, atmospheric platform from which to work. It's an opportunity seized with contemplative relish by Albarn as all the parts fall into place for what is unquestionably his most intimate expression yet.

Review by John Balfe | FOUR STARS