I’ve got sunshine in a bag
Gorillaz is the most famous virtual band in the world, if not the only virtual band in the world. However, the four virtual characters that make up this fictional band would be absolutely nothing without the brilliant, musically gifted mind of Blur’s Damon Albarn. His singing voice is perfectly smooth and eclectic and it’s a dream to listen to. His voice is, of course, also the voice of 2-D, fictional singer of this beautifully designed band co created with Jamie Hewlett.
Damon collaborated with Jamie Hewlett of the Tank Girl comics to design these amazing characters, and they did not skimp on any aspect of it. Each cartoon member has their own personal life story and their own personalities. In fact, they felt so real and so alive that it was as if these characters slowly broke free from the grasps of their creators and built intricate worlds of their own as their story rolled on. 2-D is awkward and bordering on neurotic often times when he’s on his own (with his eccentric fear of whales and sickly complexion) but when it’s time to sing and perform, he gets into a zone that cannot be stopped. Hell comes in green, and it’s name is Murdoc Niccals. As the self-proclaimed leader of the band, Murdoc portrays a type of cocky confidence, with his green skin, dark hair, and upside-down cross necklace that gives off a tough-as-nails vibe that perfectly coincides with his magnetic bass playing. Russel, a giant, is the drummer of the band, and is constantly possessed by his “homie” (who raps from time to time). And, finally, Noodle, a little girl from Asia, was shipped to Murdoc when he placed an ad for a guitarist. These four misfits became a family quickly, and the music started coming out fast. Gorillaz’ debut self-titled album, which came out in 2001, was the start of something completely different for Albarn- almost like a sandbox to experiment in- and it proved to be a good use of time. The mix of hip-hop and electronic music went hand-in-hand with the lyrical compositions and numerous collaborations with other rappers and musicians. Of course, Damon is still the frontman, and even though all you can hear of him sometimes are looped choral pieces, that’s all you really need. “Clint Eastwood” was the prime example of this method, and it’s quite an amazing track. Of course, it doesn’t end there with Gorillaz. There are more amazing tracks, gems like “19-200” a bouncy, poppy melody reminding me of old cartoons, and “Tomorrow Comes Today,” a swaying, digital masterpiece.
Demon Days came out in 2005, and is still considered as one of the best albums of all time. Albarn even said that the take on this album was simply a journey through the mind and confronting your own personal and different demons with each and every track. It dealt with the destruction of humans to the world, and had a dark, yet exhilarating feel to it. It had the single “Feel Good Inc.,” the song that took over every teenager’s radio and whose addictive bass line burrowed into listener’s minds. That is the other amazing thing about Gorillaz. The bass, mostly an overlooked instrument in a band, is the superstar here. The bass lines are explosive and focused, and makes each and every song a masterpiece on its own. “Dare” was the other stand-alone hit from this album, as well as the post apocalyptic melody “El Manana.” Demon Days was more of a story than Gorillaz’ last album, and what listeners didn’t know was that this journey was just getting started.
Plastic Beach, a breathtakingly beautiful orchestral album, came out in 2010, and it blew my mind. I was waiting so long for it, and Gorillaz did not disappoint. Each track was more amazing than the last, with it’s careening beats and numerous guest cameos (Snoop Dogg, Bobby Womack, etc.). One of my absolute favorite songs in the entire world, “Stylo”, comes from this very album, and its a song that I never get tired of listening to. The bass line is powerful and Damon’s voice is a hazy beautiful tone. The chorus erupts with sound and I feel invincible. “Melancholy Hill” was the other amazing piece. The simple intro and airy, passionate vocals make this the only somewhat romantic composition that Gorillaz has ever put out, and in my opinion, that was why it was so popular. Plastic Beach was a journey (both musically and stylistically), and was a brainchild of the last five years of collaboration. In fact, when one watches the beautifully crafted music videos that Gorillaz puts out in order, the entire time it was as if these characters were aware of what was to come. Plastic Beach was the ultra-modernist album that can even be set aside from the other two. It was different, more centered towards the music rather than the characters.
What was brilliant about Gorillaz was the fact that it was a band that no one could even dream of touching, simply because the members and worlds didn’t exist. The music, however, definitely existed, more than existed, and in the end, that’s all that matters. Damon Albarn took away the “celebrity” ideology that often comes with pop music and replaced it with a sort of anonymous image, but not one that sheepishly hides behind a veil. The music is powerful, expansive, and revolutionary, and the cartoon aspect only adds to that. In the end, Gorillaz is brilliant. It combines the best parts of art and music, and I can’t even find the words to explain how much I adore Damon Albarn, Jamie Hewlett, and these four fictional characters that steal my heart every single time.