Gorillaz is back with a new album that takes you on a dancing journey through the genres


By AGENCY

A quarter of a century after founding the virtual band Gorillaz, musical mastermind Damon Albarn's creativity is far from exhausted. With a new level of versatility, "Cracker Island" continues the amazing story of this quasi-fictional group. Photo: J.C. Hewlett/Warner Music/dpa

Hundreds of people in Time Square held their smartphones in the air, gazing at the outsized screens showing the virtual band Gorillaz.

Back in December the band transformed New York's famous square into a stage to perform Skinny Ape. That was in December.

Now, the whole album, Cracker Island, comes out today.

It's the fictional band's seventh studio album, thanks to Murdoc Niccals, 2-D, Noodle and Russel Hobbs, created by Briton Damon Albarn, who works with other star musicians.

For this latest album, he teamed up with Stevie Nicks of Fleetwood Mac and Puerto Rican rapper Bad Bunny, among others, bringing us an album that is just as good as its predecessors.

Albarn, perhaps still best known as the frontman of Britpop band Blur, once again proves that his musical talent is not bound by genres.

Hip-hop, indie rock, Latin and a hint of funk – the new Gorillaz album is so much fun because it is so versatile. Plus, it still has that unmistakable Gorillaz sound running through all 10 songs.

The single Cracker Island is a thoroughly danceable piece with elements of funk, courtesy of US bassist Thundercat. Silent Running by contrast is a pensive track reminiscent of soul classics.

Meanwhile after a folksy opening, the bass guitar dominates in the melancholy Skinny Ape. For New Gold, Albarn collaborated with rapper Bootie Brown and psychedelic band Tame Impala.

His song lyrics are "a load of old nonsense," Albarn says in an interview excerpt posted on Instagram.

Does he really mean that, though? "The first verse is about the kind of hypnotic nature of beauty and how dangerous that can be," Albarn says of Silent Running. But he is not entirely a fan of interpreting lyrics that may not necessarily be intentional.

Maybe that is what makes the Gorillaz lyrics so good – that listeners can interpret them and furnish them with a context.

But even those who can't immediately relate to the band's dark, comic-book aesthetics created by artist Jamie Hewlett should give these songs a listen.

The music alone triggers memories and associations, weaves stories and sets trails of images racing through your mind. Albarn describes creating the song Silent Running, saying he was subconsciously inspired by the science fiction film of the same name.

He calls it a "mesmerizing dreamlike state you get in when you're just following some train of thought." Try losing yourself in that thought, is what the new Gorillaz album is inviting us to do. – By Christoph Meyer/dpa

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Gorillaz , Damon Albarn

   

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