The Nearer the Fountain, More Pure the Stream Flows

Album: The Nearer The Fountain, More Pure The Stream Flows (2021)
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Songfacts®:

  • This meditation on grief and loss is the title track of Damon Albarn's The Nearer the Fountain, More Pure the Stream Flows album. Halfway through the recording process, Albarn lost his longtime friend and Good, The Bad & The Queen And Rocket Juice & The Moon collaborator Tony Allen. The song reflects Albarn's sorrow at the legendary Afrobeat drummer leaving his life, as well as the general, somber mood of the COVID-era.
  • Albarn took the song title from "Love and Memory" by John Clare. The lyrics paraphrase stanzas of the 19th century poem.

    You have gone
    The dark journey that leaves no returning
    It's fruitless for me to mourn you
    But who can help mourning?


    "Love and Memory" is a soliloquy on loss and the heartache of those left behind. What Albarn got from the poem was "the dark journey" when the memory of somebody who has passed away remains with you. "It's a very emotional negotiation you go on when someone's left your life," he told Apple Music: "You've lost something, but you retain what you choose to retain, and that can be a beautiful thing as well."
  • Damon Albarn had singled out the "nearer the fountain" line years previously, intending to use it in a musical project one day. The rest of the poem only came into focus when he began work on the album in his studio. "I had a John Clare anthology knocking about since I was a teenager," he told Mojo magazine. "My mum gave it to me as a present. So there must have been some point where that line, 'the nearer the fountain...' just hit me like a hammer and I'd written it down. I've carried that around for a long time. But it was only really after Tony died, when I came back to try and articulate what I felt in the songs, that I revisited the poem."

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