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Demon Days - Gorillaz
Member Name: marandina
Demon Days - Gorillaz
Date: 29/08/05, updated on 29/08/05 (1254 review reads)
Advantages: Just lots of fun
Disadvantages: Some weaker tracks
The initial album was a big hit and Demon Days has similarly gone platinum on both sides of the Atlantic suggesting that it has a lot more to offer than it’s eclectic mix of animation and effects. The band won both the Breakthrough Video and Best Special Effects awards at the 2005 MTV Video Music Awards lending further weight to the idea that the surreal, cartoon concept has a much greater longevity than many thought possible back in the early days of Gorillaz. This is backed up by record sales with an enduring popularity on American radio stations paving the way for further releases after this one is spent, I’m sure.
“Demon Days” is a series of bitter-sweet melodies incorporating another roll call of special guests employed to vary the direction and tempo of Albarn’s musical meandering. De La Soul get to feature on the latest single to be drawn from this particular musical well i.e. “Fell Good Inc” whilst Shaun Ryder punches a swathe through the lyrics of “Dare”.
As an album, “Demon Days” fits that more electro pop category than anything else. The band claim to having a desire to reprising those swooping electro dance tunes that came out of Manchester in the 80’s and 90’s and maybe this is where the music gets its roots on the whole.
The highlights of the album for me are “Feel Good Inc” and “Dare”. The former may be inspired by a Kinks like chorus with its windmill line “Windmill, Windmill for the land/Turn forever hand in hand/Take it all in on your stride/It is ticking, falling down..”. It’s a catchy, funky, playful ditty enhanced by De La Soul with a rapping lyrical set that’s common to quite a few tracks elsewhere on the CD. There’s also a strong baseline to compliment the catchy rhythm of the song.
“Dare” features the mighty Shaun Ryder formerly of the Happy Mondays. From an idea borne from a mutual drinking session in Soho, “Dare” gets to revisit those heady dance floor days of Ryder’s Happy Mondays experience with a synth backing and falsetto singing managing to offset Ryder’s dulcet tones. “You got to press it on you/You just, think it, that's what you do it/That's what you do, baby/Hold it down there”. The chorus apparently came from trying to pass the microphone to Ryder and as it got closer to him the chant of “It’s coming up, it’s coming up, it’s coming up, it’s there!” became the chorus for the song. Fate, huh?
From the very first track the listener knows that they are in for an interesting ride. The brief “Intro” with elements from “Dark Earth” from “Dawn of the Dead” brings with it a dark melodrama that goes neatly with a nod to zombie culture at least in the title of “Last Living Souls”, the next track.
“Kids with Guns” gets the added momentum from the vocals of Nenah Cherry although it’s a little one-paced and ordinary. Better tracks follow including “O Green World” and “Dirty Harry”. Whilst “O Green World” is a satirical knock at the state of pollution on the planet, the discordant few bars could almost be Stravinsky’s “Rite of Spring”.
“Dirty Harry” includes a children’s’ choir to add to the orchestral backing the track gets from violins, violas, cello and double Bass. A collaboration again, this time with Booty Brown, Albarn follows up his initial homage to Clint Eastwood from the "Gorillaz" album with a joyful, clapping/rap of a tune that defies the listener not to smile especially with the youthful backing from the choir - another one of my favourites on the album.
Just to add to the anime feel of the project, “All Alone” intones the thoughts of a traveller staying in a claustrophobic, coffin-like residence that feature in the highly populated Tokyo. With a dream-like chorus that lifts the song from being just a straight-forward synth/rap affair, “All Alone” lends itself to a ring-tone that comes with the territory these days as a way of making more money from music.
Maybe it's the frenetic, proto-punk "White Light" that sums the album up as a whole. Fast, furious and with a big grin on its face, "White Light" is depicted as the world of the super strong, crack booze of the street wanderer. As a picture from the CD sleeve caricatures, perhaps "Demon Days" is a homeless person grinning at the camera with a can of 500ml, 100%abv?
Like many albums these days, the weaker tracks are hidden away at the finale and “Demon Days” fits the profile of this particular theory. Both “Don’t Get Lost In Heaven” and “Demon Days” seem more like musical afterthoughts to what’s gone before. “Fire Coming Out Of The Monkey’s Head” reminded me of the voice-over employed by The Clash on “Ghetto Defendant” from the “Combat Rock” album and whilst bizarre, has a kinda lost island feel to it that makes it interesting to listen to both lyrically and musically.
Critics of Gorillaz might suggest that the band is just a bit too self-indulgent of Albarn. With a whole micro-world of web-sites, tongue-in-cheek forums and cartoon identities, Gorillaz gets to say and do whatever it likes behind a veil of semi-anonymity. What is says though, isn’t taken as seriously as maybe Albarn might think because of that 2D concept that he has managed to adopt. This is a distraction that fits the world of online graphics and abstract videos gaining an instant popularity in a 21st century that was designed for this kind of idea. Frankly, I like the idea but loved the music. It’s a whole lot of fun, different and takes the listener on a bizarre journey through monkey laden jungles to desolate, rubbish filled landscapes. “Demon Days” tries to get across a depressing picture of today. It doesn’t manage it because of the dance nature of the music. Maybe there’s a message in there somewhere.
Thanks for reading
“Demon Days” is published by Parlaphone on the Capitol Music label. I bought this from Tesco for £9.77 but you may be able to get it cheaper from online outlets such as Play.com.
Summary: Latest album release from the cartoon, conceptual band