Gorillaz
Cracker Island


3.3
great

Review

by Miloslaw Archibald Rugallini STAFF
February 23rd, 2023 | 395 replies


Release Date: 02/24/2023 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Cheese and Crackerz

2001's Gorillaz was one of the first CDs I ever owned. As a largely clueless creature of nine years, I was drawn to the art; moreso to the cool catz cruising in a geep on the cover than the bared breastz present somewhere within the booklet – these were an affront to my prepubescent sensibilitiez, and were promptly trimmed and binned. I wasn't capable of thinking too hard about, well, anything at the time, but my chaste disgust at a pair of cartoon nipz and unlearned confusion about the delicate genre-blending contained on that dope camo CD-ROM smackz to me of a conundrum that still followz Gorillaz 22 yearz later: just what the fuck is this project supposed to be and who is it for?

If you're here on Earth, you're probably as familiar with The Rise of the Music of the Apez as you are with The Fall. Across a two album stretch Gorillaz had cracked the conundrum and crafted some influential and emblematic art. The project'z prevailing direction was surreal, a space where childlike wonder conversed with indirect politicz, the imaginary battled against the real, and the curation of wide-ranging soundz and featurez felt so unique as to be unrivalled, so natural as to be predestined.

Cracker Island is the fourth album Gorillaz have released since their 2017 return from hiatus; a six-year span that now containz as many LPz as their initial ten-year run. It is a continuation of what has been a perplexing identity crisis for the outfit, each release a unique attempt to consolidate Gorillaz' widening gap between their conceptual framework and their musical reality: Humanz a bloated attempt at the legacy approach, The Now Now narrowing and focussing genre influencez into something more (or less) intimate, Song Machine, Season One: Strange Timez aiming to recapture the lightning in a bottle of quickfire collaboration. Each had its own successez and failurez, and none have made a strong case as an Album Experience that definez a new era for Gorillaz.

Cracker Island is the safest bet that Gorillaz 2.0 have made yet. It featurez featurez, is not egregiously long, and—although its worst momentz are mired in languid and lackadaisical synthpop—it is sonically diverse and interesting. The loose concept sees our cartoon heroez become involved in a cult that is—stop me if you've heard this before—largely inspired by recent eventz involving social media and alt-right echo cham

Huh? You have heard that before? Well, have you heard that “it's a cracked screen world”? That “individual actionz change the world / fill them up with love[!]” Yeah, that's kinda what we're dealing with here. Obviously I'm foraging for dudz, but when lyricz like this roll their way over the aforementioned languidity, it makes it particularly hard to resist weaponising track titlez like “The Tired Influencer” to prove a point which I can't help but find irony in; that a purportedly (sort of) digital band struggle to creatively convey digital themez. Yeesh. With that, we'll leave the conceptual framework and political implications for an inclusive and incisive conversation that you can have in the commentz.

Meanwhile, musically, proceedingz are initiated by yet another exemplary feature from Thundercat on “Cracker Island”. Delaying the entry of his song-defining bassline servez to outline its influence on the direction of the track, and Albarn'z immovable, almost robotic lead vocal melody pairs with woozy sub-bass to destabilise the jolly good funking being dished out by the guitar and bass. Elsewhere, “Skinny Ape” is the worst idea Gorillaz have ever had, yet, somewhere in between its humble folksy beginningz and its uptempo dance anthem ending, it winds up being completely and utterly lovable. “Possession Island” sees Albarn and Beck coming together for a perfectly lovely and earnest duet loaded with heart-rending harmony and delicate dynamic shifts to bring the album to a serene, glorious, and sad conclusion.

Most of the remaining highlightz require more patience to penetrate. “Baby Queen” amicably capturez a dreamlike nostalgia in its back end, but you have to trudge through an oddly out-of-universe story about Albarn meeting/dreaming about the Princess of Thailand in order to get there. Stonerz the world over will no doubt enjoy [everything, provided provisionz] the much-anticipated collaboration with Tame Impala, “New Gold”, but the track windz up attempting to fold its constituent partz on top of each other, falling short of the brainswirling milieu it's shooting for. Here, and on another couple of occasionz, it feelz as if explorative songwriting is being neglected on Cracker Island in favour of pissing out a three-minute puddle of v i b e z and calling it a day.

Regardless of whether you consider Gorillaz best dayz to be behind them, their deserved influence guaranteez that each album they drop will land like a monolith amongst the simianz. Some dickhead like me will inevitably pick up a bone and we'll fall into bickering, but we'll make like bonoboz eventually, kiss and make up, reflect on the good timez as we pick the nitz from each otherz fur, sprawl slack in each otherz' armz, contented. Cracker Island is a perfectly good album made for an active audience larger and more diverse than most artistz could ever dream of having. There's a good chance that my favouritez won't be yourz; that Cady Siregar of Consequence of Sound will give it a perfect score; that somebody somewhere will decide they're too old for this shit now; that some nine-year-old kid will be terrified by 2-D's cultmad image on the cover art, and, unable to trim and bin the image as if it were the year 2001 and they actually owned a CD, simply close their eyez and enter the harmonic realm, become a lifelong fan of a project that is so hopelessly ambitious as to be inspiring even in its misfirez.



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user ratings (189)
2.9
good

Comments:Add a Comment 
MiloRuggles
Staff Reviewer
February 23rd 2023


3033 Comments

Album Rating: 3.3

Woah, this was meant to be shorter. Thou art aware that this review simply represents the opinion of one orange dog, kla?

normaloctagon
Contributing Reviewer
February 23rd 2023


3967 Comments


Something something cheese, gromit! Maybe I’ll listen to this i do love Gorillaz

PotsyTater
February 23rd 2023


10100 Comments

Album Rating: 1.0

I wish Damon would spend more time ruining Blur’s legacy and less time ruining Gorillaz

normaloctagon
Contributing Reviewer
February 23rd 2023


3967 Comments


Damn that hits tho

Rowan5215
Staff Reviewer
February 23rd 2023


47648 Comments

Album Rating: 2.8

will read this soon, album leaked already and it's deeply okay. Song Machine b-sides tbh, Silent Running is great tho

PotsyTater
February 23rd 2023


10100 Comments

Album Rating: 1.0

I just feel like the occasional good Gorillaz single isn’t worth sullying what was a perfect discography up to Plastic Beach. Gorillaz was better when it was an enigma, a rare treat. The attention to detail conceptually and thematically just hasn’t been the same ever since. I’m no longer eager and excited when I see there is a new Gorillaz single because it happens every couple months and a lot of them just aren’t very good.

pizzamachine
February 23rd 2023


27244 Comments


That rings of based

rabidfish
February 23rd 2023


8697 Comments


I feel like Gorillaz' was cool and fun when it was a side project meant to host Damon's experimentations and let him just have fun and try stuff. It didn't NEED to work, it didn't NEED to be popular, it just was its own cool thing. I think you can see a clear line after the failure of Humanz' where the fun experiment finally died and the Gorillaz(r) was finally all there was left.

BAT
February 23rd 2023


1878 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5 | Sound Off

didn't mind humanz tbh, still haven't spun the now now or bought song machine though just been lazy. plastic beach tour was one of the best live shows i've seen. annnd yeah gorillaz was one of the first cds i got obsessed with

rabidfish
February 23rd 2023


8697 Comments


Humanz was a failure critically and you can tell they barely play any songs from that album live. Despite that, it was still trying something different. The Now Now was just nothing but safe boring shit. Song Machine had some good singles, but that too felt a bit by the numbers. Now this new one all the singles have been depressingly plastic. Die on Plastic Beach or live long enough to BECOME the Plastic Beach, ig.

Gyromania
February 23rd 2023


37116 Comments


Couldn’t get into the singles I heard from this, wasn’t particularly blown away by their last album either. Plastic Beach is their peak

YoYoMancuso
Staff Reviewer
February 23rd 2023


18868 Comments


One of your best reviewz

MiloRuggles
Staff Reviewer
February 23rd 2023


3033 Comments

Album Rating: 3.3

I sympathise with what you're all saying up there, but it's not as if those albums get any worse because new shit's released. tbf tho, the biggest challenge of this review was to not exclusively ramble about their peak, which I basically did anyway because it's inescapable. idk, at least there's some dope songs every now and then and maybe I'll get to catch them live one day.



ty yoyo!

rabidfish
February 23rd 2023


8697 Comments


It's fun as fuck live, yeah!

Rowan5215
Staff Reviewer
February 23rd 2023


47648 Comments

Album Rating: 2.8

I disagree pots Aries was single handedly worth three albums of The Fall level mid to me

PotsyTater
February 23rd 2023


10100 Comments

Album Rating: 1.0

That’s tough. Aries is amazing I just wish they could have released it within the contexts of something equally incredibly and well conceptualizer

PotsyTater
February 23rd 2023


10100 Comments

Album Rating: 1.0

“ but it's not as if those albums get any worse because new shit's released”



No, but that’s not really the point. Gorillaz is a very formative band for a lot of people my age. Probably everyone in this thread grew up with gorillaz and having them be this really cool mysterious and intriguing project that seldom released much but when they did it was this huge cultural moment amplified by an insane level of marvellous narrative marketing and hype. Something like that you just want to be able to keep on a pedestal forever. Just think if like, Portishead started dropping an album every year and half of the songs just felt like bad ideas

MiloRuggles
Staff Reviewer
February 23rd 2023


3033 Comments

Album Rating: 3.3

Hmmm yeah, I get that, but I also think it's a different scenario to the likes of Portishead. Gorillaz was supposed to be a fun alternative to self-serious popular music. I think it kind of inadvertantly ended up being sacred and mythical, and that that wasn't really the intention. Don't get me wrong, I don't outright disagree with you, it just doesn't really bother me that much because it's the cartoon band that rode that windmill and made plenty of mid songs along the way

PotsyTater
February 23rd 2023


10100 Comments

Album Rating: 1.0

The satirical mythos directly lended itself to what made Gorillaz sacred and mythical.

AsleepInTheBack
Staff Reviewer
February 23rd 2023


10216 Comments


Oh boy it’s orange dog 3.3 o clock let’s goooo



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