Sound and Rhythm
Compiled by Nazia Ahmed
MUSIC quite often tends to inscribe its own rules about how it gets around in making that trip from the initial seat of its creation to the hearts and minds of the discerning listenership. It can be likened to a spinning wheel of fortune dictating through its action the fine line between success and shortfall. Damien Rice has proven to be an exemplary case upon whom fortune has bestowed the wealth of her charms. The routinised music industry fabric which marked the endeavours of his previous band Juniper have provided many lessons for Damien and his venture into the 'solosphere'. He has allowed his music to speak for itself by way of his open and emotive live performances, which have seen the sheer beauty of his songs amassing such a dedicated fan base that the Kildare born singer-songwriter is greeted by swelled capacities wherever he performs his alluring craft. And all this before any recorded output ever got released!
Beginning his music career under the stage name of "Dodima" Rice formed the rock band Juniper along with Paul Noonan, Dominic Philips and Brian Crosby in 1991. The band met whilst they were attending Salesian College secondary school in Celbridge. With the release of their first single, “Weatherman” the band garnered mainstream attention.
After allowing the label to change parts of their second single "The World is Dead" to be more radio friendly, Rice became disheartened and made the decision to leave Juniper before the recording of their debut album. With Rice's departure in pursuit of a solo career Juniper disbanded, with the remaining members becoming Bell X1.
Rice's debut album O was released on the 1st of February 2002 in Ireland. The album went on to peak at #8 on the UK albums chart and stayed in the charts for a total of 97 weeks; it topped the US Billboard Heatseekers chart and has sold over 650,000 copies in the US.
Critical response to O was generally favourable, garnering a score of 80 on the review aggregator Metacritic. Charles Spano in a review for All Music Guide gave the album 9 out of 10 claiming “the entire record makes the empty highway less lonely, the sunshine a little warmer, and life a little more poetic”, describing it as a “hopelessly beautiful record”. Alexis Petridis in his review for The Guardian described the album “gorgeous and understated” awarding it 4 stars out of 5. Rolling Stone were also impressed stating that the album has “songs that, for all their quietness, leave a dark, lasting impression.” However some critics, such as Stylus were less impressed, claiming “you can actually hear the moment when the album turns sour.”
In an interview with Cluas.com he was asked: Being a singer or musician must be like choosing a wildcard for life that that in one sense it must be impossible to know what to expect or what's coming next. Is there a downside this 'not knowing'?
Damien Rice: I think there can be a downside to anything you choose in life, depending on where you are within yourself, whether you're happy and that's what I've learned over the last while. This can be really hard, you know some things can go really right and some things can go really wrong and it's when the things that go wrong, it's how you deal with those.
Damien Rice is up in the big league of people such as Ryan Adams and Jesse Malin, the new generation of songwriters that craft beauty and pure raw emotion from their guitars and their words. None of them will ever be the bookies favorites for number one or consistent commercial success. But music lovers everywhere will sit back and admire them for a long time to com.