Ireland’s Damien Rice was already a two-time platinum artist in his homeland when he released his solo debut, O, stateside on Warner Bros. imprint Vector Records. When he did, the states rejoiced, plastering his mug all over the MTVs, Rolling Stone and New York City scaffolding. Rice joined the ranks of other meteoric rises in the pop world, including Ryan Adams and David Gray, but he sports a few things these crooning clowns can’t touch: charisma, entertainment value and balls. Still, he too often fails to stand out in the sea of bleating pretty boys.
Playing solo is like jumping into the kiddy pool — you’ve really got to do something impressive to make a splash. When was the last time you heard a falsetto opera singer or Gregorian chant on a pop album? Rice even lends the album to friend and back-up vocalist Lisa Hannigan for songs at a time, and the mix of male and female vocals complement the delicate melodies and earnest lyrics. Rice effectively uses O to touch human emotion, strumming through lines like “I die when he comes around/ To take you home/ I’m too shy/ I should have kissed you when we were alone.” This album could have easily delved into more introspective and sinister material, but who needs that?
Call me the product of the television attention-deficit-disorder generation, but as soothing as ol’ Damien’s voice might be, nearly an hour of it can be hard to take. By the end of the seventh track, “Cheers Darlin,’ ” I found myself hoping for a guitar breakdown, but probably would have settled for 50 Cent cameo, at that point, or just about anything that would break the monotony.
A few clever lyrics and Rice’s sometimes-wonderfully-strained voice keeps this album moderately enjoyable. In a recent television interview, Rice referred to this album as “post poop,” further explaining that his music is as relaxing as that moment of nirvana on the pot. Post fucking poop. Unless going number two induces coma, I’d say it’s a humorous — but understated — description.