Elusive tunz: Gorillaz sing, but don't exist
When last we heard from Gorillaz, the group had just topped every indie chart in the country with an album and video so unusual that it had most people wondering What exactly are the Gorillaz?
The group is presented as four cartoon characters, each representing in some way a counterculture interest group. In the videos, the cartoons run around performing the songs. Because of the eclectic music on the album, it's easy to accept these characters as representing actual members of the band.
But they don't. In actuality, the Gorillaz don't exist. The music itself is the creative output of former Blur frontman Damon Albarn and whomever he decides to invite to join his cross-cultural parade.
Last time I wrote about Gorillaz, Albarn had enlisted weirdo producer Dan the Automator as his co-conspirator. However, this time around for Demon Dayz, the infamous Danger Mouse, producer of The Grey Album (see Jay-z's Black Album remixed with the Beatles' White Album), has been summoned from his quiet home in Atlanta to pick up where Automator left off.
The album intro sounds like the music one might hear behind a Scooby Doo cartoon. This creates the perfect link between the visuals of the album cover and what you're about to hear. The oboes of the intro slide nicely into the opening song, "Last Living Souls," a ditty stylistically close to the music heard on the last Gorillaz album. That song features Albarn singing in a very Bob Dylan-esque fashion.
Things start to change for the better with "Kids With Guns," an '80s post-punk/electro groove reminiscent of Talking Heads, and "Dirty Harry," a soulful serenade featuring the San Fernandez Youth Choir. "Dirty Harry" is one of the better cuts on the album. Most impressive is the string arrangement that takes the soulful portion of the song into a much harder early '90s hip-hop drum cadence in the same vein as The Bomb Squad (see Public Enemy). Bootie Brown of The Pharcyde even gets a verse.
The album continues to mix '80s post-punk and electro vibes with more contemporary styles such as drum n bass, hip-hop and even gospel. All the while Albarn lends his vocals to various hooks and chorus while selecting a random array of guest artists. Neneh Cherry, Ike Turner, Trugoy of De La Soul (note: that's Yogurt spelled backward), MF Doom, Dennis Hopper, and UK bad-boy Roots Manuva all add a little something to the Gorillaz formula.
Albarn and Danger Mouse really hit a home run with the tracks "El Manana" and "Every Planet We Reach Is Dead," as well as the trio of songs that end that album. Gorillaz falls short on the pointless interlude "White Light," and the sometimes confusing way the songs run together.
However, the sweet far outweighs the bitter here. Danger Mouse deserves an award for most versatile producer of the year, and Damon Albarn deserves the "Way To Reinvent Yourself" award. Demon Dayz is a class-A record for all you looking to bend the mold a bit.