hey folks! figured i’d take a break from compiling my “from the vault” discog reviews and catch y’all up with what i’m actually listening to. at the moment, i’m in the middle of a dive into the Gorillaz history, which has been pretty neat! i was a distant fan during what i now know of as their first two phases – i remember the original Kong Studios website, and i always wanted to get more into the band during their Demon Days period, but never did. i did spend some time with Plastic Beach, and kinda kept tabs distantly ever since.

i did also wanna mention that i used the Gorillaz for Beginners site pretty heavily for these reviews. moreso than a lot of other bands, Gorillaz are a multi-media kinda group, which means there’s a lot to keep tabs on, and i found this to be a p clear and complete collection of what they’ve got going on, so a huge thanks to the folks that keep it running!

for the uninitiated, the Gorillaz is a “digital band”, formed officially in 2000 by former Tank Girl artist Jamie Hewlett and Damon Albarn, who has other musical projects im not super familiar with. Hewlett designs and produces a lot of the band’s visuals, and Albarn is, to my knowledge, the only consistent person in the studio, the rest being studio musicians for single projects or an honestly staggering number of collaborators.

in the Lore, of which there is a lot, the band consists of “frontman” Stu “2-D” Potts on vocals and keyboards, Murdoc Nichols on bass guitar, child prodigy Noodle on primarily guitar, and possessed drummer Russel Hobbs.

the band hit the world in late 2000 with the Tomorrow Comes Today EP, and a music video for the lead single. this would kick off what would be known as Phase 1: Celebrity Takedown:

title track Tomorrow Comes Today leads the EP, and has this empty, lonesome vibe to it, which is accented by the minimal, drifting tone of the music video. this one ain’t heavily animated (either the song or the music video, haha), but i think is real good at capturing a sense of being swept up in a world that’s moving too fast and getting lost in the shuffle, with the sharp punch of the drums under that, what is that, a synth on harmonica setting? and stu’s quieter, mellow delivery. good track, neat start. Rock the House is real fucking good, and introduces frequent collaborator and honestly future discog target Del the Funky Homosapien, who in lore is a ghost inhabiting drummer Russel Hobbs. this song’s just fucking good. Del’s fucking playing over the drums, and that horn loop is so catchy. Latin Simone almost feels like an attempt at what theyd do for a ballad, haha. its aight, but im not compelled by it. 12D3 is the only track here not repeated on the debut, and it’s got some interesting stuff, with that acoustic guitar driving the pace of the song – can almost imagine this one walking down a western main street or something. the rest of the EP is bonus work around Tomorrow Comes Today, an instrumental and the Middle Row Remix. the instrumental’s neat, and the Remix brings the tempo of the track up quite a bit, which is neat, but i wish they’d done a little more for the bits they use the vocals here.

faves – Tomorrow Comes Today, Rock the House

yeah this one’s a neat intro – i like Tomorrow and Rock the House leading to demonstrate the two speeds they’ll work at, and Latin Simone and 12D3 playing around and showing off a little more of what they’re playing with. given that the big tracks here are gonna show up and be featured center stage elsewhere, i still think this is a fun window into the band’s early process.

Tomorrow Comes Today EP – 5/10

as noted, a lot of these tracks are repeated on their debut LP, Gorillaz, which dropped in March 2001 after a single and music video for Clint Eastwood

alright kicking the record off with Re-Hash, which is a pretty laid back track. i really like the acoustic guitar under all the processing on the various vocals and more extravagant sounds, and that repeated hook at the end just drills right down into your brain. 5/4 has a really neat mix to it, with the guitar split in the mix and the drums hanging out in the center. i dig this one too. Tomorrow Comes Today is good, largely unchanged from its presence on the EP. positioning on the record here is a little strange, but its still a good track. Not super interested in New Genius (Brother). next is that first single, Clint Eastwood! def feels like the older brother to Rock the House – Del’s back with some extremely fun verses, with a synth loop and 2-D covering the chorus. at 5 minutes i feel like this track hangs out a little longer than it might need to – vocals drop off about a minute and a half before the end and it’s mostly riffing from there – but its still a really good time. Man Research (Clapper) doesn’t do a ton for me. i loke the spacey-ness of the instrumental components, but think 2-Ds vocals do a little more harm than good here. Punk is… what it says on the tin. some very poppy punk (but not pop punk), and i dig it! its a fun sound for a sec. Sound Check (Gravity) has some stuff in the cooker that i think are nice – 2-D’s chorus is really nice, and i like the dubbier parts around it, but it fails to come together holistically for me. Double Bass has some v nice bass playing, as you’d expect, and i think its a pleasant listen but aint one of my faves. the other track i really liked from the EP returns, and even gets a music video as one of the singles off the record! this one’s so fun and playful, haha. v nice after the last two tracks were a little less forwardly engaging. if you had asked me before this discography review what my favorite Gorillaz track was, i wouldve told you 19-2000. that still might end up being true – this is a weird, funky little track and i love it, and a huge chunk of that is the music video. Latin Simone (Que Pasa Contigo) is the other returning track – this time with Spanish vocals performed by Ibrahim Ferrer. i like this version better but still not super interested in it. Starshine feels like it’s returning to the space carved out by Sound Check (Gravity) and it…. its fine. its just fine. Slow Country is a pretty good track overall, ngl. its hard for me to find songs where i have such contrasting opinions of individual components, but M1 A1 REALLY gets there. that minute and a half intro really bugs me, but the bulk of the track after that i actually really enjoy. Dracula’s a good time, and id put money on it being a sleeper hit next time i return to this album, haha. Left Hand Suzuki Method is an interesting functional closer – i really like the mixing of the “chorus”, with the strings strong in the left channel and the piano plunking away in the right. the Ed Case remix of Clint Eastwood does some neat changes – increasing the tempo so much in particular is a really cool shift – but i’m not super into the added vocals.

faves – Re-Hash, 5/4, Tomorrow Comes Today, Clint Eastwood, Punk, Rock the House, 19-2000
dislikes –

i read while doing some background on this album that Albarn used it as an opportunity to explore sounds, directions, and beats that wouldnt have fit with his other band. there are definitely places where that is heard for sure, but it was also interesting to hear then name-drop Jamaican genres like Dub and Dance Hall in the lyrics, haha.

on the whole, i think the album’s neat. some of the tracks here are catchy and full of loops and hooks that stay with you, but there’s also a few tracks that kinda just drift. there’s a point, basically just after 19-2000, where the album kinds loses me for a second, which is a shame. i feel like that’s a risk with 18 tracks in an hour, with the variety of what’s present here, that there’s just some spaces in the record that arent gonna catch you. but that experimentation, that playing in the space, is still really neat, and i think when they nail it here they REALLY nail it.

Gorillaz – 6/10

on the whole, very enjoyable! the Gorillaz for Beginners site has a bit about the G-bites, little short animated segments that show some fun stuff about the characters of the band – i def recommend checking them out, and they’re a large part of what made the band so charming when i first heard about them.

anyways, we’ve got two small projects to dig into to close out this phase next time!

this is the beginning | next: G-Sides and Laika Come Home

all my reviews for Gorillaz