Thirty years ago it was Blur vs Oasis. Now it seems that to the list of great rock rivalries, we can add the (fairly unlikely) names of Damon Albarn vs, er, the Rolling Stones.
Speaking to French magazine Les Inrockuptibles – to whom he had previously revealed that he was once again placing Blur on indefinite hiatus – the singer revealed some pretty uncompromising views on the self-proclaimed “Greatest rock and roll band in the world”.
“I did all sorts of things, whereas they’ve never been anything other than The Rolling Stones,” he said, when asked if he will still be “capitalizing on your past glory” when he reaches the age of Mick Jagger and co.
“There’s no chance and I’ll tell you why… I love the idea of devoting your life to one thing, in search of the sublime. But the truth is, they’ve became worse. Worse at persisting to stay themselves. That’s something I don’t understand. Making exactly the same music but not that good. There must be no joy in doing something like this.”
He also has some very particular problems with the Stones’ new album, Hackney Diamonds.
“This really annoyed me,” he said, “because my family lives in Hackney and the way they showed up at the Hackney Empire venue really p***ed me off. They’ve never did a thing in Hackney, they’ve never played there, never contributed to anything. They just showed up. It’s all nonsense.
“I listened to their new song and watched this horrible music video showing them at different stages of their lives on billboards. And this young woman objectified. What the hell is this? There’s something completely disconnected.”
It is not the first time Albarn has picked a fight with a rock rival. In 1995 the enmity between Blur and Oasis – which peaked in a chart battle dubbed “The Battle of Britpop” – escalated into a war of words that Albarn later recalled left him bruised. “Noel Gallagher used to take the p*** out of me constantly and it really, really hurt at the time,” he said in the Blur documentary No Distance Left To Run. “Oasis were like the bullies I had to put up with at school."
The beef continued even after Albarn and Noel Gallagher collaborated on the Gorillaz track “We Got the Power” in 2017. “No one’s asked Liam what he thinks about the song yet," Albarn told Vulture at the time. “No doubt he’d have a fantastic one-liner about what a bunch of f***ing knobheads we are.”
The former Oasis singer duly obliged with a tweet in which he dismissed Albarn as a “gobs***e” and his older brother as “a massive girl”.
Despite his distaste for “capitalizing on past glory”, it seems that Albarn’s scorn for the Rolling Stones does not extend to the octogenarian rockers’ erstwhile rivals the Beatles. Speaking about the Fab Four’s recently-released new track “Now and Then”, he said:
“Initially, it was John Lennon alone in his flat singing a song. I don’t think it was meant to reach that level of exposure. But you know, it’s a good opportunity for everyone. It’s a question of scale: if enough people are interested, there could be hundreds of my songs released after my death, including songs that I would never have wanted to release. But you know, it’s nice to hear John’s voice.”