Gorillaz - Demon Days
Its 2002 again. I'm 15 years old and standing helplessly in the record shop in an Australian airport. I was gripping the first Gorillaz album, fumbling indecisively with the cash in my pocket, and wondering, (like the rest of the world was at the time), why that single was called “Clint Eastwood”, and why the leader singer sounded so much like that bloody bloke from Blur. Needless to say I brought it, and its genre defying hi-jinx kept me blissfully amused for the next two or three months.
Right up until new years eve 2003, when they suddenly disappeared. Daman shed his monkey mask and left it to gather dust in his attic. The rest of the band members were abducted by the earnest Indie politburo and held hostage in The Strokes basement, forced to live off scraps of meat and only very limited rations of hallucinogenic drugs (I should add, by the way, that this didn't actually happen). Their departure was as unexpected as their arrival, and we were doomed, for the next two years, to feel a vague surge of confused and uneasy nostalgia each time we came across their debut on our shelf.
On the face of things then, their reformation seemed about as likely as a ringtone reaching number one in the singles charts (ha ha ha). But as more time passes, their parachuting back into the music community seems gravely necessary. They are here, equipped, I might add, with a fleet of guest rappers big enough to man a small nineteenth century battleship (MF doom, Roots Manuva and De La Soul among the most prominent). Arriving just in time to rescue us from the painfully serious piano driven mope-pop of: Coldplay Keane and Athlete,, to reinject some fun into charts.
On first listen, Demon Days is a baffling sonic whirlpool of strange samples and squeaky voiced rapping, interspersed with baselines that chug away harmlessly. It's confusing, and not necessarily brilliant. But a few mores listens down the road and the music transforms into a catchy slice of pop pleasure as its melodies and hooks distil over time and start swimming happily around in your mind, rearing their heads gleefully when you least expect it.
“Fire coming out of the monkey's head” is the best example of the sheer sense of fun this album can unleash. Its strange, otherworldly tale is narrated by a man who sounds, rather disturbingly, like an American David Attenborough. “All alone” is a rather brilliant blend of silly American gospel samples and earnest drum and bass. It sounds as if an American Pentecostal choir (perhaps in conjunction with the Strokes) have kidnapped the So Solid Crew and forced them to perform in their local church.
“Every planet we reach is dead” however, despite its heavy reverberating synth riff which sits in your stomach like a pound of Swedish malt-loaf, is still intrinsically Blur. And perhaps that's why this musical side-project works so well, the raw quantity of different musical styles and cleverly sketched out middle-eighths mean that you cold listen to this album perhaps fifty times and still discover some new buried treasure each time you do.
This is a band that, if not universally liked, is at least universally respected. And funnily enough, most criticism of them, from either broadsheets or Indie fanzines seems to come down to vague moans about “more hippity trippity hop… bloody kids and those texto messages…” or something. So it gives me great satisfaction to give this album a thumbs up and a cheesy grin.