Wednesday, March 3, 2010

#25 Gorillaz, the greatest band that never existed.

Who would have thought that a fusion between music and graphic arts would have blended together as well as in the phenomenon that is The Gorillaz. It started out as an idea between room mates Damon Albarn (Lead singer of Blur) and Jamie Hewlett (creator of the Tank Girl comic series) as they sat around their apartment watching MTV and remarking how lame and devoid of substance they thought it was. They decided that since the record industry had no substance they would create a band with such little substance that they wouldn't even exist! The band they formed called 'Gorillaz' consist of 2D (lead Vocals, Keyboards), Noodle (lead guitar, vocals), Murdoc Niccals (bass guitar) and Russel (drums, percussion). In actuality, the original lineup of musicians behind the cartoons were Albarn, 'Del tha Funky Homosapien', and 'Dan the Automator'. Since their inception, Damon Albarn has been the only constant musician working with the band and has engaged a multitude of guest musicians to help him craft the Gorillaz sound.

Their music is totally out there and unique in the world of popular music. Fusing pop with electronic music, rock and hip-hop, Albarn has put together two of the most original sounding albums of the last ten years. I have always enjoyed the Gorillaz partly due to Albarn's involvement as I was a fan of his work with his former band Blur. He has a fantastic, haunting singing voice with a terrific English accent that sounds more then a little bored as he sings which may not sound good but I think it adds satire and depth to the music he makes. One of the reasons he wanted to make the Gorillaz is that he hated the celebrity around being a musician and having to appear in interviews and publicity shoots. With the Gorillaz he found a way out of all of that. Hewlett would create the characters to be in the publicity videos and in essence they would be the band, allowing Albarn to do the music side of it and leave the rest of it behind. In their live shows, the band would always be in the shadows and huge screens would show the characters rocking out in a virtual concert.

As time went by they began to advance the idea to the point where Albarn and Hewlett connected with 'Musion Eyeliner', a technology firm that they began working with to generate holographic Gorillaz characters that could actually be on the stage at a live show and not just on screens. They tested this new technique at the 2005 MTV Europe music awards and then again at the 2006 Grammy awards. While the two performances were seen as a generally huge success, the band decided to give up the idea of a world tour with the holograms as they felt the technology which was still in its infancy was too expensive to roll out on a world tour at that point. For the next few years the Gorillaz were pretty silent although Albarn has kept quite busy with his other projects and Hewlett has been working towards getting a Gorillaz film together. It was just announced that the band was releasing its long awaited third studio album. This is the first record from Gorillaz since 2005's 'Demon Days'. From what I have read, the album sounds like it is going to be fantastic. It has guest appearances from rock legends Lou Reed, Mick Jones, and Paul Simonon to name a few (Jones and Simonon we all remember from their work with The Clash). Albarn has been working with Simonon frequently throughout the Gorillaz hiatus. As a yet unnamed band they released a record together in 2007 titled 'The Good, The Bad and The Queen' which was a pretty solid record to say the least. The Gorillaz release 'Plastic Beach' march 9th here in Canada and it has already recieved fantastic reviews from pretty much every critic that has gotten to hear it. Their new single 'Stylo' is fantastic and was just brought to my attention from my good buddy Nate (SHOUT OUT TO NATE). The video shows the band being chased by an angry gun toting Bruce Willis and is totally amazing and a fun video to check out.

The Facts:

-Since 2000, the band has released only two studio albums together, as well as 3 compilation/remix albums and 3 dvd's featuring their cartoon selves.
-The Gorillaz are headlining the final night at this years Coachella Music Festival.
-They earned themselves a place in the Guinness book of world records under 'Most successful virtual band ever'.

My Fave Album:

-While their entire catalog is solid, I think I enjoy 2005's Demon Days the most. It is stuffed full of freaking awesome tracks and cranks the funk up a few more levels then on their debut album. Standout tracks for me on this record are Feel good inc., Dare, and The Mountain Called Monkey. I love that The Mountain Called Monkey is instrumental but features Dennis Hopper doing a fantastic monologue about villagers living under the clouds of a deity imbibed mountain called Monkey. The added funk is also accompanied by more varying musical experimentation, seeing the group add strings, vocal choirs and some terrific piano numbers. Albarn's distant slightly bored singing has never sounded so phoned in and it couldn't come across more awesome then it does here.

Here is their first single 'Clint Eastwood'. It's awesome and has tons of funk thrown in. Enjoy!

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