GGorillaz are, for all good intents and purposes, an animated band.
When I say animated, I don’t mean they wave they’re arms around when they talk. I mean they’ve got more in common with Scooby Doo than a prospective Ritalin user/abuser. They are the brainchildren of Damon Albarn (Blur frontman) and top shelf illustrator Jamie Hewlett. This pop band was born from an idea that serves to counter and highlight the sheer overwhelming blandness offered to your everyday pimpled consumer, whose money, by the way, is as good as yours. Half of the appeal lies in the undeniable fact that Gorillaz are graphically very stylish and are infinitely more interesting than your average prissy mirror kissers. However, to successfully pull off the whole cartoon caper, the music has to deliver the goods. Consequently several phone calls were made, and some heavyweight collaborators were flown in on expenses. Dan “The Automator” Nakamura, he of hip-hop classic “Dr. Octagon(ecologyst)” fame, was placed in charge of production, and he in turn introduced Kid Koala, the scratch happy grandstander, and the rhyming pedigree of Del Tha Funkee Homosapien, all of whom Albarn worked with during last year’s Deltron 3030 album. Miho Hatori (Cibo Matto) makes an appearance, as does Tina Frantz (Talking Heads et al). A choice mention should be aside for Ibrahim Ferrer, the Cuban master vocalist.
Their music is a hybrid of multiple genres such as dub, hip-hop, Latin and the ever important guitar fuckery, either individually or all at the same time. We find electro-dub tracks jockeying for position amid a couple of street corner punk workouts, whilst The Automator works on throwing out a range of interstellar sounds that are destined to rebound off other planets. Ibrahim Ferrer lays down his two cents and helps to deliver a definite high point on the delicious Havana affair “Latin Simone”. The album also holds the bona fide UK dance floor hit “Clint Eastwood”, which showcases the simple yet utterly effective rap style of Del Tha Funkee. Given the varied, yet undoubtable talent involved in the project, it could easily have lapsed into a messy self-congratulatory half-formed sub-par exercise in knob twiddling and ego indulgence. Thankfully though, Gorillaz are just out to have a good time and whilst it was all happening, they managed to create one.
A couple of tracks flounder around South of no North but as a whole Gorillaz, should be pretty pleased with what they’ve been able to achieve, considering the high risk concept involved. Given the acres of creative liberation surrounding a completely and truly manufactured band the next album should, by rights, be completely different. If not, when cartoons burn out they can be made to die gloriously.
We all know how critical it is to keep independent voices alive and strong on the Internet. Please consider a donation to support our work as independent cultural critics and historians. Your donation will help PopMatters stay viable through these changing and challenging times. Thanks everyone.