Review Summary: Finally, someone let me outta my cage. . .
Gorillaz - Demon Days
Review by Clumpy
First things first: "Demon Days" is a record full of energy and class, executed with aplomb and energy, filled with nods to just about every musical revolutionary who ever lived. Its genre-bending and cheeky daring go a long way toward masking some of its flaws.
Soul music permeates the album, but group frontman Damon Albarn and producer Dangermouse use rap, Beatles-like pop (mirroring the "Let It Be"-style cover art), full-on rock and even techno to great effect. Tracks begin nonchalantly only to build into glorious industrial white noise, hellish and strange. Through it all, the album maintains its class.
It's not just the experimentation and "bshh-bshh-bshh-bshh" drumbeats that make the album unique, though - through it all Gorillaz prove themselves masters of the art of songwriting and progression. Early tracks begin subtly, almost minimalistic, and then, through subtle and masterful transitions, morph into something truly great. It's a style of music commongly-seen in art music but rarely in the pop scene.
The band had developed since their "sunshine in a bag" days but absolutely retain that joyous celebration of what it means to create music and have fun. Every guest-star on this album sounds ecstatic to be on board (and with a roster of guest-stars running the gamut from MF Doom to Dennis Hopper, that's no small feat). The sheer improvement in the songwriting and effective use of guest-stars alone elevates this album above the merely-good "Gorillaz" self-titled.
It's also an album of surprising emotional weight. Songs like "Oh Green World" and "Every Planet We Reach is Dead" plod along mournfully (while retaining that dark funky edge the kids love). Albarn's voice has matured and is no longer restrained to the obnoxious "2D" falsetto so prevalent in the first album. The truly wrenching "El Mañana" sways and strays unconfidently and beautifully, especially following the mind-bending anarchic mix of showstopper "Feel Good Inc".
The album shifts focus as it goes - minimalistic techno-rock in the early stages segues into the more rap- and pop-oriented efforts at the album's midpoint. Following a wonderously-bizarre reading by actor Dennis Hopper (accompanied by the sickest and heaviest bass beats known to man), Soul (literally, hence the capitalization) of the album , hinted at in the earlier tracks, finally comes through. Though everything doesn't quite turn into "The Custom Gospel Sounds of Gorillaz" (the beats and white noise remain), the album ends on a great foot with two trailing tracks that really do an excellent job of summing up the album.
So - great stuff through and through. Though a couple mid-album tracks don't make quite the same impression as the rest of the album, the dimmer spots can be overlooked because the rest is just that good.
In short: the whole album's just so darkly-optimistic that you'll want to jump off a bridge singing "Don't Worry, Be Happy", it's so chock-full of transitions that it's got a little something for everybody, and these four little musical friends of ours could wipe the wall with Alvin and the Chipmunks if it ever came to a cartoon-band fight. "Demon Days" is a keeper.
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QUICK NOTE: Back in 2005, EMI was experimenting with copy protection on some of their releases. As a result, this disc is shackled with full DRM copy protection. What this means to the consumer is that you may have trouble burning this disc to a computer hard drive or playing it on certain "incompatible" CD players (resulting in an obnoxious "click" sound every ten seconds or no sound at all). I think that this demonstrates both contempt for the consumer and a violation of their right to copy their own music to portable devices or to backup discs for personal use. Though there are solutions for you iPod users out there, if you feel strongly about this sort of thing and want to skip this release, be my guest. (Though I should tell you: if you buy the album and then download an extra copy off the Internet for your iPod, you are stealing previous RIAA ones and zeros, Mister Stealer-pants, you.)