Gorillaz - Demon Days
With Gorillaz, one occasionally gets the impression the multimedia aspects of the venture are given more time than the music. Which isn't to say they don't come up with some striking tunes - this is Damon Albarn's side project after all -, just that Demon Days continues the patchy nature of their debut.
The first three proper tracks here, while not exactly bad, are disappointingly featureless; little more than dubby bass, scratchy guitar and Damon's voice. Dirty Harry is the first time Damon takes a backseat - and the point at which the record picks up. You might not expect cheapo, dated electronics, a kiddie's choir and a brief rap, courtesy of Bootie Brown, to add up to much, yet this funky tune will worm its way into many a head.
Directly following is single, Feel Good Inc., a catchy mix of lo-fi vocals, dreamy melodies, and interruptions of insane laughter. At time of writing, it's one of the best tracks of summer 2005, even if the usually chilled De La Soul sound more like D12.
Another standout moment comes in the form of DARE, featuring an endearing non-performance from Shaun Ryder (in contrast to the more tuneful Rosie Wilson). One suspects he turned up, mumbled his lines into the mic, took the money and pissed off. Yet this booty shaker proves again that the stranger the idea, the better Gorillaz work.
And, for really strange ideas, how about the album's three-tracks-as-one closer? Fire Coming Out Of The Monkey's Head is Dennis Hopper narrating a story about an isolated community of "happy folk" being taken over by a strange, evil force. (Presumably we're in metaphor territory.) Don't Get Lost In Heaven sees the arrival of Beach Boys style melodies and piano, leading into the dubby, uplifting, choir-lead finale of the title song, where it's suggested we should turn away from "drugs and t.v.". Success!
Half of the album has a similar feel to Think Tank. The problem is that these tracks (with the exception maybe of the rather nice El Manana) don't bear favourable comparison. Consequently, Demon Days is at its most compelling when we're allowed to forget Gorillaz are Damon's side project, when he is sharing the limelight - or shoved off stage altogether -, when the band are bringing to life some bizarre concept that on paper looks set to fail. Recommended with caution.