In this day and age, everyone’s always trying to find a shtick. What traits embody your sound so that it’s different from everyone else’s? Some musical acts put fresh spins on old formulas, and others follow their heart to the point that their music is nigh-unclassifiable. The shtick that Gorillaz presented when they came around at the start of the noughties might just be one of the shtickiest shticks I’ve ever seen.
The four-person band exists in an animated universe completely detached from its creators and given depth to the point that these characters seem real enough for you to suspend your disbelief and allow yourself to enter their world. When I listen to Gorillaz, I don’t imagine Damon Albarn singing; I imagine 2D.
Although I was introduced to them through “Feel Good Inc.”, as many were, and Demon Days is personally my favorite Gorillaz album and one of my favorite albums of all time, I still find that it’s important to respect the roots. Everybody starts from somewhere.
There are a handful of more recognizable songs on the self-titled album (which is how I’ll be referring to it in this review) that are dispersed throughout in a way that resembles swimming through a pool with life preservers strategically placed at certain points. Once you’re done with putting your face in the water, you can lean back on the comforting familiarity that hit songs such as “19-2000” (which you may know from its infinitely more iconic Soulchild remix) and “Clint Eastwood” (which has been ranked on several lists of the greatest songs of the 2000s) bring. However, the real meat of the album comes from the lesser-known songs. That’s my favorite kind of album: the one where the hit songs aren’t actually the best songs.
The general sound of the self-titled album sits on a sliding scale of alternative rock and hip-hop; sometimes the scale shifts pretty evidently to one side, but many a time sounds exist in Odelay-esque blends of both extremes. Gritty alt-rock songs such as “M1A1” and “5/4” exist alongside brooding trip-hop songs like “Sound Check (Gravity)” and “Tomorrow Comes Today”, and endeavors from more genres like jazz rap (“Rock the House”) are thrown into the mix.
As good as the album, its sonic experimentation is as beneficial and enjoyable as it is ultimately detrimental to the overall effect the album produces. Its sound is fickle and there’s not the same unity or cohesion that exists on the band’s future albums, many of which could classify as quasi-concept albums strung together by a story. Perhaps it’s on shaky grounds to compare a band’s debut to its more sophisticated future albums, but Gorillaz’ self-titled album feels more like a collection of songs than it does an album.
Favorite Tracks: “Sound Check (Gravity)”, “Re-Hash”, “Clint Eastwood”