It would seem that there are some musicians that no matter what project they get involved in it’s successful; Damon Albarn is that musician. Albarn had made a name for himself with his first band Blur in 1989 finding great success. Blur was instrumental as a defining sound of the Britpop movement; their success lasted until the mid 90’s. Albarn’s second project Gorillaz was founded in 2001 and the ride has been equally successful.
Demon Days is the second Gorillaz album and is a strong follow up to their self-titled first album released in 2001. Hits off the first album included “Clint Eastwood”, “Rock The House”, and “19-2000”. “Clint Eastwood” was the larger hit on that album thanks in part to the video animated by Jamie Hewitt. Hewitt’s designs have created the persona of the band, members include 2D, Murdoc, Russell, and Noodle. Albarn originally intended Gorillaz to be a virtual band with no identities of the true musicians. The Gorillaz first concert tour was performed behind a curtain with merely their silouettes revealed. A cool idea, but it was not truly satisfying for the ticket holder and the routine was scrapped to a degree; in their most recent tour supporting Demon Days minimal light settings were used and Albarn was finally exposed for the crowds to actually see and enjoy.
In the four year span between albums Gorillaz did release a filler album composed of B-sides cleverly called “G-Sides”; it sold rather well and offered alternative versions of songs on the first album, specifically “19-2000”. “G-Sides” highlights more vocals from founding member Miho Hatori (Noodle)of the band Cibo Matto (not Shonen Knife). Hitori was the only female member of the band. Interestingly, on Demon Days Hitori does not contribute, yet her persona (Noodle) is still a key feature of the bands identity.
Demon Days relies on the same formula that made the initial album succesful. Highlights on the album include “Feel Good Inc.”, “Dare”, and “Dirty Harry”. There are several dead points in the album and one wonders why Albarn chose these songs; many feel rather inferior and create awkward transitions from song to song; clearly there are much better songs he could have used. I would not discount Demon Days as a worthy purchase, but be forwarned that there are some songs that just don’t seem to transition songs to each other as well as they could.
Songs that Albarn excluded from Demon Days can be found in the 2-disc set, the aptly named “D-Sides” (2007), the “secondary” tracks contain mixes by outside artists, bonus songs, and alternate versions; it is worth picking up. “68 State”, “Hongkongathon”, and “Dirty Harry” (Schtung Chinese New Year Remix) are great tracks.
The cool things about Gorillaz is that Albarn has not kept the songs solely to himself and has encouraged other artists to manipulate Gorillaz material and create alternate versions. In 2002, an underground group called “SpaceMonkeyz” released “Laika Come Home”; this album is comprised entirely of Gorillaz music put to dub and reggae, the result is actually quite good and is among my favorite albums.
Demon Days is an good album and worth picking up, although there might be a few bumps in the road during your listening experience, you should find your favorites rather quickly. Check out the other Gorillaz albums mentioned in this review since each offers the listener a little something different. I’m curious to see what direction Albarn will take his pet project next.
Demon Days gets a healthy 3 out of 5.