Review Summary: In the wake of Demon Days, Gorillaz presents a second compilation record that once again hits and misses... only on a larger scale.
Serving as the songs that didn't quite make it or simply don't coincide, B-sides are B-sides for a reason and because of this there is oftentimes no guarantee that they will turn out any more than just that. Gorillaz have already demonstrated this with mediocre results in their previous compilation, G Sides
, which featured but a handful of gems between mostly sub-par "remixes". However, one notable difference is the inclusion of not one but two discs in the collection of D-Sides
, the first of which is made up of B-sides and the second bearing a number of remixes from the Demon Days
Now, as genuinely excited as I am at the very mention of new music under the band's name, one can understand my uncertainty on whether or not this would be an improvement or another hit-or-miss guessing game. Also, given the relatively unpredictable and seemingly spontaneous spectrum of sound that is
Gorillaz, it would make sense if one were to expect a compilation of this sort to be even further randomized in what it has to offer. This was my predisposition, but a few listens into it I begin to recognize a stark contrast in the good and the bad... taking form as a convenient divide between the two discs, to be specific.
The Not-So-Bad... (Disc One)
Surprisingly, the tracks that make up the first disc present themselves in a way that not only is easy to appreciate but even boasts a greater sense of cohesion than that offered in the back-and-forth roller coaster of madness that is the band's self titled debut. That is, of course, if you pay little mind to the two Demon Days
reincarnations in People
and Don't Get Lost in Heaven
. The former essentially (and shamelessly, might I add) stands as a Dare
Part 2 with its blatant similarity and yet, somehow, manages to be just as enjoyable. The latter, oddly enough, is the original demo version for its chorale centered version of the same title and rides a laid back, careless groove with 2D (or rather, Damon Albarn) seemingly emulating a lazy likeness to Bob Dylan
in his singing.
Though this is not unexplored territory, another oddity is how the record fits even though a number of the songs offered on this disc come off as oriented more toward one genre or another. The introductory track 68 State
, for example, is entirely instrumental of feel good synth/electronica vibes complete with a background siren. Others employ bass-heavy emphasis as a means to drive the song forward, as in the reggae-reminiscent Bill Murray
or the ska-like waltz that is Hongkongaton
Of course, as a B-sides collection it is prone to having a number of tracks that stand out significantly in comparison to the others, but the ones here shine quite pleasantly. As the name may imply, Murdoc is God
is an unforgiving snippet of ultra-distorted bass pummeling that precedes and complements the funky and considerably less distorted groove of Spitting Out the Demons
. On the gentler side Hong Kong
, acting as the longest song on the first disc, captures the beautifully haunting subtly Gorillaz is capable of to an extent that has not been seen since the self titled disc. Though the closing track, Stop the Dams
doesn't quite achieve the same effect, it follows in this suit with more stress on live instrumentation and is a pleasant end of sorts.
Generally, disc one is a varied but fun voyage that gives off the impression that it could, with a bit of work, perhaps pass as something other than B-sides. Yes, there are some slips along the way... We Are Happy Landfill
is somewhat of a noisy mess, and Rockit
is like a bizarre new wave song with lyrics such as "i'm feeling really blah blah, i want to blah blah blah, and in the end it means i want to blah blah blah blah blah
". Still, despite the occasionally average track the listen thus far is one that is at the very least impressive for a compilation of this type. Unfortunately, we are not quite at the end yet...
The Not-So-Good... (Disc Two)
Even for those who enjoy song remixes or are fond of Gorillaz, the second disc will more than likely become one that is listened to sparingly over time. Right away the listener is thrown into the twelve minute expanse that is the DFA remix of Dare
, a lengthy and yet sparsely interesting mix that begs to be skipped. A good portion of the track sounds not much different from a blender being set at various speeds and accompanied by a repetitive drum beat and bass loop put over top of it for good measure. Unfortunately, I have to agree that this is probably the most appropriate mix to begin with as it seems to represent exactly what the listener is in for.
If you manage to listen to the entirety of the DFA remix (or if you just cheat and simply skip the track), you find yourself at another representative for the remix disc. The Stanton Warriors mix for Feel Good Inc
lasts about as long as two Feel Good Inc
's and comes off as about half as interesting. The Metronomy mix of El Mañana
continues the torment and comes off as an attempt at interesting syncopation by misplacing the vocal dubs entirely against the rhythm but really only succeeds as coming off as entirely noisy and irritating. The lone Dirty Harry
mix is even nearly identical to the original... with one glaring exception: everything is in Chinese, including the "rap", which is at best embarrassingly humorous.
Kids With Guns
is even ruined twice
before this is over. The Jamie T's Turns to Monsters mix is a painful mutation that features what sounds to be a adolescent Brit-rapper with a desperate tendency to come off as a really bad imitation of Mike Skinner of The Streets
. As if it wasn't bad enough that this version features a pathetic attempt at creating an epic build up (that doesn't lift to begin with), the second ruined version drones on for over ten minutes to the incessant, droning repetition of what sounds like tribal drumming. In this mix, the "highlights" include nothing more than the seemingly randomized instances of noise and the needless implementation of a female vocalist spouting nonsense.
Fortunately, there are a few instances where at least two of the Demon Days
mixes are done in a way that is not inevitably boring or unbearably irritating. The Soulwax remix for Dare
is a darkly entrancing ride that could actually rival the original, entering as soft as a breath and growing through glitches, blips, and a sinister bass synth. The Junior Sanchez remix goes in the other direction entirely, acting as an energetic mirror of the initial version suited with a touch of live instrument emphasis. Hot Chip's Kids With Guns
even makes up for the two sub par versions with a mix that crescendos gradually and quietly into a techno-like climax and conclusion.
When it is done and over with, D-Sides
is a lot to take in a number of different ways. In fact, with both of the discs combined it is nearly two hours worth of music, some of which seems to work and some of which doesn't. It can't be helped that a B-side compilation and a remix album may not necessarily be the best combination to throw together, but as a double disc this release seems to be the very inverse of itself. One side is a strong set of catchy, fun songs that Gorillaz fans are bound to love and on the other there is a severely lacking, half baked set of re-hashed ideas. Granted on one hand you have songs that were in the works during production of Demon Days
and on the other you have those that were specifically crafted afterwards. Collectively, however, the latter half really brings the overall appreciation of this release down a great deal. The plus side is that because of all that is offered here, whatever the preference, chances are there is something that will appeal to most who lend an ear.
Spitting Out the Demons
Dare (Soulwax Remix)