First Appeared at The Music Box, May 2004, Volume 11, #5
Written by John Metzger
If ever there was an album in the digital age that might have been better suited to the snap, crackle, and pop of vinyl, it’s Damien Rice’s O. Not that the collection loses any of its warmth as a result of its technological crispness, it’s just that its songs are suited perfectly to the wee hours of cold, candlelit nights, enveloped by the smoky scent and glowing aura of a slow-burning wood fire. Throughout O, the tracks bleed from one into the next, forming a cyclical passion play that is graceful, grand, and gripping. Indeed, whether one is mourning the dissolution of a relationship or yearning for one that is just out of reach, Rice’s honest and heartfelt confessionals cling to the sensual side of the soul with unusual efficacy. The sonorous cello of Vyvienne Long underscores many of his songs; it lovingly caresses each melody, and it occasionally yields to a climactic outburst of swollen strings. Yet, the tempestuous chemistry between Rice and Lisa Hannigan is what truly breathes life into his operatic masterpiece. On the hit single Volcano, their voices meet, and together they impulsively erupt in an intertwining tangle of passion; while on The Blower’s Daughter, she rebuffs his advances, even as he pines obsessively for her love, which he has no hope of winning. Granted, singer-songwriters brandishing acoustic guitars are a dime a dozen, but although Rice employs every trick in their hidden handbook — so much so that an inattentive listener might call his songs clichéd — the fact remains that O is as mesmerizing, magical, and magnificent a debut as any in recent memory.
O is available from Barnes & Noble.
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2004 The Music Box