A look at the virtual bands entire discography from worst to best
Gorillaz is a virtual band created by brit pop hero and Blur frontman Damon Albarn and visual artist Jamie Hewlett in 1998. Albarn is arguably one of the most talented and busy artists of the current music scene having two side projects one being Gorillaz and the other being The Good, The Bad and the Queen under his belt. As well as a well received solo outing in 2014 and various collaborations such as Kali Uchis on her track ‘In My Dreams’. Whilst towards the end of Blur in the late 90s/early 2000s they had already broke away from their brit pop trappings, it wasn’t until Gorillaz debut in 2001 that he fully broke the mould. Moving forward toward a fully alternative rock sound spliced with US hip hop, Albarn’s virtual band were pioneers at the turn of the new millennium. Critically lauded and heaped with praise they have become one of the most recognised and successful British alternative bands of the last 20 years. Now with 6 albums under their belt I’m going to take a look to see how they stack up against each other, now that we won’t seeing another Gorillaz project for quite some time.
6. THE FALL – Easily their worst album and not even worst as in its alright just not as good as the others, it’s not a very good album. It’s easy to see why its not as strong as the other Gorillaz records though, the album was recorded during Gorillaz 32 leg US tour in which Albarn hadn’t written or prepared any tracks prior to recording. To be fair to it though the album wasn’t a complete disaster considering the lack of preparation, really it is a testament to Albarn’s skill that he managed to make a complete, full length LP whilst on the road and without any prior thought. There are some stand out tracks on this record though such as ‘Revolving Doors’ which feels the most like a classic Gorillaz track. For the most part though many of the tracks on this LP are just instrumentals and ambience and the instrumentals aren’t as slick or well thought out as on previous records and the lack of preparation on the album is probably why.
5. THE NOW NOW – Their most recent record was a bit of a disappointing one for me. The early released single ‘Humility’ promised a great return, perhaps even more of a return to their roots. Unfortunately, many of the tracks that followed did not quite live up to the greatness of ‘humility’ which had nice vibrant instrumentation and a sweet, summery level of production and a cracking music video featuring Jack Black. ‘Lake Zurich’ was quite a decent little instrumental only track that harkened back to some classic Gorillaz sounds and ‘Tranz’ was another fairly decent track on the LP that had nice vocals from Albarn and had quite a nice psychedelic aura about it. However, the rest of the tracks on this LP are far from memorable, ‘Hollywood’ which had one of the only prominent features, that being Snoop Dogg. Considering the features on Gorillaz albums provide the most memorable and stand out moments this feature left much to be desired. It’s easy to see why Albarn moved away from using so many features as the groups previous record ‘Humanz’ was criticised for having too many. It’s a shame this LP didn’t quite live up to expectations.
4. HUMANZ – This record marked the groups comeback after a relatively long hiatus, marking 7 years after the release of their last full length LP. For many this was a disappointment and I can understand many of this albums criticisms, it didn’t quite feel like a full on Gorillaz record and was perhaps a bit to feature heavy. I have to admire Albarn though for what he wanted to do with this record and that was to create an album for the party of the end of the world. This album was to bite back at the political shit storm both here in the UK, as well as, the USA. In fact, for the most part I really enjoyed this record it had some excellent features such as Popcaan on the excellent ‘Saturnz Barz’, whilst this track didn’t feature much of Albarn it still very much felt and sounded like a Gorillaz track. Other stand out features were Grace Jones on ‘Charger’ and DRAM on one of my personal favourites ‘Andromeda’. For the most part Albarn was successful in creating his vision of a party for the end of the world. However, what caused the albums downfall for me was mainly in how it felt quite bloated and overly long. Being 20 tracks in length and some of them being nowhere near as good a quality as others. The album is pretty much a tale of two halves with the first 10 tracks being great and the next 10 being mostly forgettable, with the exceptions being ‘SexMurderParty’ and ‘We Got the Power’.
3. PLASTIC BEACH – From this point on all of the Gorillaz albums are great, excellent even. Whilst it’s certainly harder for me to rank these 3 it’s still quite clear what deserves the top spot. Plastic Beach was arguably Gorillaz last amazing full length LP for many. Whilst I enjoyed Humanz for the most part it never quite reaches the heights of this and their other 2 outings. This LP had some pretty strong features from the likes of De La Soul on the buoyant ‘Superfast Jellyfish’ and Bobby Womack and Mos Def on the brilliant ‘Stylo’ which has one of my favourite Gorillaz music videos featuring Bruce Willis. The album also features my favourite Gorillaz track of all time “Melancholy Hill” which was an excellently mellow, synth-pop track just featuring Albarn’s vocals and nice synthy instrumentation.
2. GORILLAZ ‘SELF TITLED’ – This is the album that started it all. Released in 2001 off the back of the immensely popular single ‘Clint Eastwood’ which blended indie rock, trip hop and hip hop all into one excellent journey across the genres having one of the best Gorillaz features from Del the Funk Homosapien. This album is near perfection in terms of what Albarn had set out to achieve. Whilst he struggled to break America with Blur, Gorillaz were as instant success on the other side of the Atlantic blending more of an America style indie rock vibe with hip hop beats and vocals. The album was packed with standout moments such as “Punk” a nice little 2 minute rip roaring, punk track with brazen, gritty guitar playing. ’19-2000′ is an excellent experimental funk track and ‘Tomorrow Comes Today’ was another brilliant trip hop outing. This album was full of experimentation and really was quite unique for the time it was released. It blended and bended genres successfully, quite like no other band had achieved.
1. DEMON DAYS – Predictably and most obviously my favourite Gorillaz album happens to be their most successful and critically praised album, as well as, being mostly everybody else favourite Gorillaz record (how unoriginal of me). There is not denying though that Gorillaz perfected it formula with this outing, seamlessly blending alternative rock, dance, hip hop and pretty much every other musical genre under the sun, packing it all into this 51 minute masterpiece. Taking what he had learned from the self titled release Albarn managed to create more fully realised tracks, brimming with ideas that he manages to pull off incredibly well. If the first record felt like a gimmick to some when it was first released in 2001 this record transcended that notion and sent it packing into the sun. This album features some of the best and most memorable tracks from the noughties such as the ever excellent ‘Feel Good Inc’ featuring De La Soul and the dance bop ‘Dare’ featuring a Shaun Ryder who was originally supposed to be say “It’s There” but his accent made it sound like he was saying “It’s Dare”. Other stand out tracks on this record were “Kids with Guns” and “Dirty Harry’. Overall, from track to track it feels like the album is telling a story with each piece being integral to the overall Gorillaz narrative and lore. It’s excellent story telling and brilliant piece of music, wonderful stuff.
There you have it, Gorillaz worst to best. Whilst, they have had somewhat of a mixed discography, overall, there is no denying what Albarn has achieved with the virtual band is quite special. For something that seemed to be a gimmick of the early 2000’s and perhaps a product of its time, it’s great to see Gorillaz are still as relevant today as the were when they first came about on the scene. It is a shame that Albarn seems to be taking a brief hiatus from the musical project so here’s to hoping he returns with Gorillaz sometime in the near future.