Now I know how it felt to be my parents, watching the Rolling Stones in the mid eighties.
Back in early 2006 when I went to get my green card at the American embassy in London, Damon Albarn was there too, sitting with a minder, waiting to get a performer's permit for a trip to New York with his newer band, Gorillaz. He was far more suntanned than any Briton has a right to be in mid-March, and a bit fatter and more wrinkled, too. He had a lot of product in his hair. As I waited anxiously for my number to be called I considered striking up a conversation, but realized he'd think it was ridiculous. While he was looking confidently "just out of bed," I was looking nervously "just out of prep school," having worn my most Republican-looking suit in the hope of impressing the American clerks due to stamp my papers. Meanwhile Albarn was petulant as a nine-year-old.
"Whaddaya mean I've got to come back next week?" he asked, half-shouting, when he was called up to the window to present his documents. I'm paraphrasing but you get the idea.
"Next week?" I asked. "And you'll have it ready for me then? An honor! Truly..."
Sitting there over-eager opposite fat wrinkly perma-tanned over-producty-haired grumpy Damon Albarn was a deflating epilogue to my adolescent idolization of the man. And in many ways a fitting end to my time as a resident of Britain. It was a literal and metaphorical rite of passage—the end of something. But no...
Teenage Matt Davis thought DAMON ALBARN in whopping neon lights in teenage Matt Davis's consciousness. If only teenage Matt Davis (tMD) could have bought a poster without worrying someone might accuse tMD of being a homosexual! Albarn wore Adidas jackets but didn't play many sports (tMD said "check!"); had a slightly daring haircut for a posh boy (tMD said "check!") and he dated Justine Frischman from Elastica, who was clever sexy, not page-three sexy (tMD never dated Frischmann but thought about it extraordinarily vividly on more than one occasion, and has generally modeled his tropes for female attractiveness on an amalgam of Frischmann and his own mother ever since...tMD was ashamed of the mother part for a long time but to be honest now realizes that the Frischmann part is probably more unusual).
Albarn was reassuring for an adolescent facing disparate influences in suburban Southeast London: He made tMD want to read books and be sarcastic, not drive a truck for a living. Unsurprisingly, parental blessing was thereby afforded for tMD to go see Blur at Wembley Arena when tMD was 14. (The "tMD" device is being ditched at this point since it was redundant midway through the last paragraph). It was the first concert either me or my friend Ed Shuttleworth had been to and I wore an Albarnesque Adidas top. It was crushing because about 10,000 other boys my age were also there wearing the same thing and most of them had the same hair cut. Afterwards I preferred to watch Blur videos at home—I was no longer under the complete and total illusion that I was different from and better than everyone else just like Albarn. In fact seeing all those other kids in Adidas jackets dimmed my confidence a good five to eight percent. Interestingly Ed Shuttleworth wore a mental fake fur jacket to the concert but last time we spoke he was a corporate banker—this I think says something troubling about the nature of genuine individualism that I hope will soon be comprehensively explored by Malcolm Gladwell elsewhere.
Damon Albarn made me who I am is the truth of it. So why in God's name has he re-formed Blur just to piss on all my memories when I would prefer to hold him like a beacon in my heart and soul as he was? This couldn't make me sadder. Instead of replaying Parklife and Tracy Jacks I'm sitting here in the dark reflecting on the aging process and how effective Albarn has probably been in the marketing of hair product and Adidas jackets above all else. I have the same feeling envisioning the reunited band fronted by my younger hero as I do when I recently watched an online episode of the A-Team: It might look a bit similar to how I remember it but that's all. Justine Frischmann is approaching her peak years in my opinion but it's only cos she's getting closer to my mum's age, probably, and she's the rare exception: Magic is best in the memory.
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