Demon Days, by Gorillaz
Suggested by Alfie Bennett
“Fantastic!” I thought, checking the Randomiser. “I love Gorillaz. This will be a high scoring album, for sure.”
In the classic Britpop Battle, Blur versus Oasis, I was a Blurite through and through. While I thought (and still think) that Oasis wrote the better songs, I thought (and still think) Blur were the better and more interesting musicians.
I’m also a collector of the sci-fi comic 2000AD. Jamie Hewlett was a long-time artistic contributor to the prog, submitting art for Judge Dredd stories and co-creating the well-received Hewligan’s Haircut. And there’s Tank Girl, of course, which was a kickass comic if not a successful movie franchise.
And bands that aren’t real? Love ‘em! You want “real” but made up, there’s the phenomenal Spinal Tap, or The Rutles, or Mulligan and O’Hare. You want puppets or muppets? There’s Dr Teeth and the Electric Mayhem, or the fantastic Banana Splits. You want animated bands? How about The Be Sharps, the Ponytones, and Timmy and the Lords of the Underworld.
Gorillaz are all three of these things.
Demon Days is the second album from these musical cartoon avatars, which spawned a plethora of popular singles with decent chart success. Clint Eastwood, Feel Good Inc, and Dare placing #6, #2 and #1 respectively. The legendary Shaun Ryder provides the chorus to Dare, while the album showcases other contributory talent such as De La Soul, Neneh Cherry, Ike Turner, and Dennis Hopper.
Listening to the album in full, it’s clear that the Daman Albarn Musical Blueprint is being strictly followed. It’s low-fi disco electronica, driven by a strong bass and sprinkled with a gentle dusting of quirkiness. Albarn’s high and reedy vocal is a constant, but it’s aided and abetted by a slew of vocal styles and spots provided by the aforementioned guest list.
It’s certainly a winning formula. The early tracks like Last Living Souls and Kids With Guns are fine additions to the Gorillaz catalogue, but as the album proceeds, there’s a certain chasm between the successful singles and the remaining album tracks. The trifecta of November has Come, All Alone and White Light do the project no favours, and by the time we get to the rather pretentious Fire Coming out of the Monkey’s Head, it’s clear that the level of excellence set by the singles is a level that can’t easily sustained.
As for the singles? You can take your pick for personal favourite, and you’ll never be wrong whatever you choose. Me, I vacillate between Feel Good Inc and Dare. I still respect the schoolyard choir sound of Dirty Harry, but it’s a head-to-head between the fizzing bass of Feel Good Inc and the acrid bumble-vocal of the Happy Monday’s frontman. Today, I’m feeling Feel Good Inc, but tomorrow’s on the way.
My initial excitement for Demon Days didn’t quite die on the vine, but the grapes we could harvest were a touch bitter on the palate. I give Gorillaz 7/10. The talent is there, in fits and starts, but the motor idles in neutral far too easily.