by Donte Kirby
Melancholy and filled with a longing for a woman you can’t have. A sentiment that has written more records than anyone cares to count. Damian Rice channels the grief of a lovelorn man in varying forms across the ten tracks of O.
“No love, no glory/ No hero in her sky,” are turns of phrase that litter the album. The song “The Blower’s Daughter” goes on to repeat “I can’t take my eyes off of you,” for five lines. An ode to the obsessive staring that comes with unrequited love. Rice sings about the feelings that intimate relationships leave in their wake and the album’s sound does it’s best to personify that. At the end of the album it’s known what those dark days in a relationship sound like for Rice.
The album is carried by a love weary acoustic guitar that brightens up on “Cannonball” and croons deeply on “Older Chests”. Songs are given backing vocals by Lisa Hannigan and their vocal chemistry give Damian Rice’s lyric extra weight. As in “The Blower’s Daughter”, Hannigan sings from the perspective of Rice’s unrequited love interest and the two sing back and forth in “Cold Water”.
The collaborative energies between Rice and Hannigan that give each track its heart and soul would eventually be Rice’s downfall. When the pair split during the tour of the subsequent album 9 (2006) Rice was on a seven year hiatus until his return in 2014 with My Favorite Faded Fantasy. The hiatus and possible cause give every track featuring both Hannigan and Rice some extra subtext to read into. At what song did the pair become more than friends? What song marks when the relationship started to fray? These questions make listening to Damien Rice more engaging as you parcel out which lyrical truths apply to fans and which apply to the artist.
Relationships and the heartache it produces is universal. O was an album that mined the vein of melancholy that comes from a relationship. If your partner just left you, if a close friend won’t pick up your calls or there’s an ache in your chest O might speak to you.