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Last Active 05-15-20 12:19 am
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Gorillaz releases ranked
Meanwhile EP

Chucked out the door midway through 2021, Meanwhile is brief, forgettable and largely unimportant, though its excursion back into dub and reggae calls back to the group’s debut record. It’s fine, but it’s so short and rather one-note that it hardly really makes much of an impact. The ska influenced ‘Jimmy Jimmy’ is the standout here, while the title track is forgettable and ‘Deja Vu’, which catchy and upbeat, feels almost like a massive parody instead of a tribute, though Alicai Harley gives it her all and does a standout job.
The Fall

Recorded mainly on an IPad and on a tour bus, The Fall isn’t really a proper album by the group, more like a little leftovers project. Lacking the lush and poppy soundscapes of Plastic Beach and honing down on lo-fi electronica, found sounds and other odd experiments with the odd proper song chucked in for good measure. As it stands, it’s fine, though the annoying moments certainly stick out more given the rather reedy tracklist. The standout tracks are undoubtedly the downbeat and low-key ‘Revolving Doors’ and the soulful and soothing ‘Bobby in Phoenix’, featuring a fantastic vocal by Bobby Womack. Sadly, they’re sandwiched inbetween garish techno experiments (‘Phoner to Arizona’) or bizarre sketches (‘The Speak-It Mountains’, ‘Seattle Yodel’)

Releasing a b-sides album after you’ve only put out a single record is a pretty bizarre strategy to say the least. As such, G-Sides is thin on material, resorting to radio edits, remixes and strange experiments. It’s not all a mess though, as there’s some quality stuff here, mainly with ‘The Sounder’, the better-than-the-original remix of ‘19-2000’ and the dubby ‘Ghost Train’ and ‘Dracula’, two of the earliest songs the band recorded. The other songs are fine, nothing groundbreaking but there’s fun to be had with the spastic and freakish ‘Left Hand Suzuki Method’ and the low-key ‘12D3’. But did we really need to have a censored version of ‘Rock the House’ on here?

Half a b-sides album and half a remix record, D-Sides is a monster of an album with a hell of a lot of music to get through. Admittedly the remix section is completely disposable (bar the 12 minute monster remix of ‘DARE’ and the Chinese traditional remix of ‘Dirty Harry’), as the real meat of the album is the b-sides. They’re all over the place, varying in quality from disposable (‘Highway (Under Construction)’), whatever (‘Hongkongaton’) to absolutely gorgeous (‘Hong Kong’, ‘Stop the Dams’). It’s a decided mixed affair, and you can definitely tell that some of the tracks were bashed out to fill CD space, but the handful of excellent songs here make up for the somewhat shaky results.

Released after a 7 year gap and a huge shift in the political climate, ‘Humanz’ is long, full of guests and largely a mess. Hardly feeling like an album, instead more like a chaotic mishmash of guest features, interludes and an unusual amount of Damon-less songs. Still, I can appreciate what Humanz was trying to go for, being an apocalyptic party record and all, and there are definitely some extremely strong points here, but given how the album is such a chaotic mess and feels more like a chance for Damon to say “hey, look who I’M FRIENDS WITH”, I can’t give it too much slack. Most of the fat comes from the second half of the album, with tracks like ‘Sex Murder Party’ (which I assure you does not live up to its name) bloating the already overwhelming tracklist. Despite this, there’s a lot of fun to be had here, be it the mad gospel grime of ‘Ascension’, the funky and laid back ‘Strobelite’, the haunting and eerie ‘Let Me Out’ and the avant garde spoken word climax of ‘Hallelujah Money’

Hell of a weird debut, but having a hit single means you could release some crazy shit back then and get away with it. Heavily indebted to dub, trip hop and world music, self titled is a bit of a crazed fever dream of a record. One that stinks of weed and constantly asks to bum a ciggy while it sleeps on your coach. Still, you put up with him because he’s a nice bloke and he’s really entertaining sometimes. There’s some killer shit on here. ‘Re-Hash’ is a perfect opener, ‘Slow Country’ is a beautiful and heart aching ballad layered under walls of sound effects, ‘Sound Check (Gravity)’ is haunting, complex and atmospheric and the four way succession of high quality singles from the immortal dub dance of ‘Clint Eastwood’ to the grainy and broken trip hop or ‘Tomorrow Comes Today’. It’s the start of something beautiful, even if there’s some questionable creative decisions sometimes (cough cough Starshine)
Plastic Beach

In many ways, Plastic Beach is a warning. A warning against the growing rise of plastic in oceans and a warning that Damon was getting too trigger happy with picking collaborators. PB is positively packed to the gills with cameos and collaborators, but the record never feels smothered under its own weight like Humanz does. Moving away from the moody and dark sounds of their early work, PB dabbles in a massive range of genres. It was a blessing however, as the LP feels like a breath of fresh air after the claustrophobic sounds of their early work with bright melodies, massive hooks and some truly touching tracks. ‘On Melancholy Hill’ is a warm, fuzzy pop gem, while the dazzling ‘Empire Ants’ and the heart wrenching ‘Cloud of Unknown’ lead the charge of standouts. Elsewhere, Lou Reed sings a pop song (‘Some Kind of Nature’), De La Soul rap about plastic toy foods (‘Superfast Jellyfish’) and Bobby Womack tears the house down (‘Stylo’). It’s eclectic, deliciously catchy and a damn fine LP
Song Machine, Season One: Strange Timez

A lot of Gorillaz fans were rightfully quite worried after the release of ‘Humanz’ (and to an extent, ‘The Now Now’, more on that later). Was Damon willing to keep making albums where he layers on the guest vocals and calls it a day? Thankfully, he toned it down and helped make an album (or a series of singles more accurately) that balanced the roulette of collaborators and high quality songs that ‘Humanz’ should have been. Releasing a song a month, Song Machine brought in a shitload of guest artists and managed to not collapse in on itself, a miracle really. ‘Song Machine’ is arguably their best album in years, bringing in everyone from Beck (‘Valley of the Pagans’, to Slowthai and Slaves (‘Momentary Bliss’), Robert Smith (‘Strange Timez’) and even getting Elton John and 6LACK on the same song (‘The Pink Phantom’). Disregarding the high level of talent here, the songs are just fucking great, and If the upcoming Season 2 is as good as this one, Gorillaz fans needn’t worry
The Now Now

‘The Now Now’ is a spontaneous release, and it’s hardly one that aims very high. There’s no underlying message, army of collaborators and mad genre hopping. This is simply a straightforward, laid back, fun and wonderfully catchy funk record. The bass on this record is outstanding, and it provides the lynch pin of the entire album, propelling tracks like the breezy opener ‘Humility’, to the slow and groovy one two punch of ‘Kansas’ and ‘Sorcererz’. There’s the odd stab at synth pop (‘Tranz’) and folk (‘Idaho’) but most of the time, the album maintains a consistent, chilled tone and pace, and it excels because of that. The album’s lone collaborators, Snoop Dogg and Jamie Principle help bring the groove on the swoozy club tune ‘Hollywood’, while things ease down for the swaying and beautiful ‘Magic City’ and closer ‘Souk Eye’. The Now Now isn’t trying to be something grand, and that’s okay, and really that’s what makes it stand out so much. It’s short, simple, fun and ridiculously catchy.
Demon Days

‘Clint Eastwood’ put them on the map. ‘Demon Days’ established they were here to stay. Rightfully regarded as a modern classic, Gorillaz’ sophomore LP is dark, brooding, funky, heavy, poppy, funny, catchy, paranoid and optimistic. All kinds of emotions rolled into one neat little package. Even if for whatever reason it didn’t contain the godlike singles that are the iconic ‘Feel Good Inc.’, ‘Dare’ and ‘Dirty Harry’, you’d still be left with a shockingly good and diverse album with plenty to sink your teeth into. From the minimalist opener ‘Last Living Souls’, to the grandiose three part finale of ‘Fire Coming Out of a Monkey’s Head’, ‘Don’t Get Lost in Heaven’ and ‘Demon Days’, the band don’t hold back and shower the listener in tight grooves, quality guest spots and a wide range of styles from Disco, punk, spoken word and trip hop. It’s nigh perfect and remains relevant even to this day with its political and social commentary. A modern day masterpiece.
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