As I broaden my musical horizons by listening solely to artists I vaguely know the name of, I find it odd that I’d put off Gorillaz for so long. Created by the fluffy haired, starry eyed Damon Albarn of Britpop’s Blur fame, it seemed right up my street. A project that transcended music itself and delved into animation and performance art, it couldn’t have come from anyone else but Albarn. Perhaps their most popular and successful album, Demon Days released in the not so distant year of 2005, and it certainly shows.
It’s a fine album, with some obvious gems thrown in as expected, but as a product it doesn’t flow as well as you would hope for. Songs that feel like the only way to listen to them is with the windows of your car rolled down while you nod your head to the beat, specifically Kids with Guns. Not a bad thing, unless you don’t own a car like me.
With a somewhat weak opening, the real core of the album is, as expected, the singles. Feel Good Inc., Dirty Harry and Dare are all marvellous songs, as culturally relevant today as they were upon their initial release fifteen long years ago. They’ve aged very well, it’s just a shame that the songs that precede and follow each aren’t all that interesting. O Green World provides a semblance of what the band has to offer, but doesn’t capitalise on the narrative, storytelling abilities that Albarn often showcased in his work with Blur, specifically in that of 1994’s album Parklife.
Albarn went on the record in an interview years ago to say that Gorillaz make “dark pop”. I’m not entirely sure what that means, but as a subculture it doesn’t work since Demon Days is the expected synth beats, incorporating the plucky indie charm of Albarn’s previous, stronger works. The bleak realities that Blur songs explored like To The End or The Universal aren’t touched upon with much depth within the work of this dark pop, nor are the conceited motifs of, as Damon puts it, “the world in a state of night”. It’s all very slapdash, and dare I say it, a bit mediocre.
By all means is it not a bad album, it’s just a certainly underwhelming piece. Remembered for a small handful of rightfully regarded great songs, but propelled to an unreachable level of expectation by a feverish crowd of fans who hail the ground Shaun Ryder walks. I do enjoy Gorillaz, separately, not one after another in an album form. It falls apart scarily fast, but as individual songs they’re listenable. Feel Good Inc. will always remain a classic, and it seems Demon Days will coast along on that reputation alone.