Gotta give it to Damon Albarn. Fronting a band that gains an immense following and selling a boatload of records is akin to winning the lottery, odds-wise. Doing it twice is just smarts on his part, parlaying his early successes with the British punk band Blur into the world’s most popular “virtual”/“animated” band Gorillaz.
Here’s a stat I can’t even fathom: Gorillaz went diamond – which is to say, 10 million sold worldwide. I’m always floored by “indie” minded bands that go on to massive sales success and still manage to maintain a high level of quality output.
This self-titled debut speaks to all experiments that go well. A band with a diverse vision for the future of music could easily fall flat on its face. An unproven group with a successful marketing campaign can still hit the wall when it’s time to “put up or shut up” and actually release music (see: most recently, Shone).
But Gorillaz live up to the hype. Gorillaz is all over the place sonically, with punk, hip-hop, dub, acid jazz and Latin influences. The pace of the album is similarly spastic: at times, tempered well down, and elsewhere very club-friendly.
Interestingly enough, where Gorillaz succeeds most is not on its well-known hits like “Clint Eastwood” – though “Rock the House” is my jam. Rather, it’s the interesting, dub-inspired tracks like “Man Research (Clapper)” or the gritty, industrial, DJ-scratch heavy “Sound Check (Gravity)” or the entrancing, Spanish flavor of “Latin Simone (Que Pasa Contigo) that make up the strong core of the album.
Gorillaz has already been out 12 years, which hurts my head to think about. It’s aged well, too, not suffering from the “wonky and shtick-heavy side project blues.” I might have just made up those blues. It’s a dark blue.
Standout tracks: “Rock the House” and “Sound Check (Gravity)” and “Double Bass”
Weakest track: Look, I know it’s their biggest hit and everybody likes it, but “Clint Eastwood” doesn’t ever sit well with me, man. I don’t want to say it’s because I used to hear it on the radio all the time; though that might be a factor, I just think they really excel in other areas and tracks here. Or “Starshine.”
RIYL: Acid jazz, dub. I don’t even know what band compares, really- the only artist out there as weird stylistically is probably Beck Hansen.