It's been four years since Gorillaz, the world's first animated group, debuted with Gorillaz, a wacky blend of pop, rock, and hip-hop. A fun, terrific debut guided by one of the best single's to hit MTV in the past half-decade, "Clint Eastwood." I myself am not too overzealous when hearing a great single, but damn, that track sucker-punched me pretty hard.
With a world, albeit animated, tour under their belt, Gorillaz has returned with Demon Days. In the past four years, Gorillaz brain-child and bassist Murdoc Nicalls spent 18 months in Mexican jail for writing dud checks on tequila and senoritas. The notorious Satanist busted out of prison before his term was up. Vocalist 2D returned to England where he was treated like the King. The celebrity lifestyle got to 2D's head, and he realized it was he, not Murdoc, who was responsible for Gorillaz success. The sometimes schizophrenic drummer Russel Hobbs went Brian Wilson on us, and decided upon his next project: A hip-hop masterpiece in the vein of Pet Sounds and Sgt. Peppers. Believing that the album was too powerful for its own good, Russel returned to England, emotionally shattered. Guitar-wiz Noodle re-pieced her half-forgotten memory and learned that she was part of an elite military Japanese fighting squad.
Back in the real world, Blur frontman Damon Albarn has gone to some lengths to differentiate Demon Days from the debut. First, and most drastically, Dan the Automator is no longer the group's producer. Right away, this should shake listeners' foundations because I know mine did. Instead of reenlisting one of hip-hop's most original beat-makers and producers, Albarn decided to recruit Danger Mouse ' known best for the infamous Grey Album ' to produce. Secondly, there is no Del tha Funkee Homosapien on this record. Ouch. That one cut me deep, seeing as I am a huge Del fan, and seeing as his raps on "Clint Eastwood" are more than likely responsible for Gorillaz debut success. Instead, he is replaced with scattered guest appearances including MF Doom on "November Has Come." So what is the same?
Well, you can expect the same quirky blend of pop and hip-hop on Demon Days. The only difference is that the tone is, overall, more representative of "19/2000" from Gorillaz than "Clint Eastwood." The album is not as eerie or dark sounding, although Albarn's lyrics argue otherwise (see "All Alone"). And as many people may have already discovered, Gorillaz debuts Demon Days with an infectious first single in "Feel Good Inc." Again, the hip-hop flavor exudes in this track, somewhat more noticeably than other tracks. A catchy, iPod commercial worthy cut, "Feel Good Inc." displays the best aspects of Gorillaz. Other quality tracks include the MF Doom feature "November Has Come," and "Fire Coming Out of a Monkey's Head," which features Dennis Hopper with a spoken word portion. And let's face it, Hopper is probably second to only Christopher Walken when deciding to feature a weird badass on one's album.
However, Demon Days is pretty forgettable. It's nowhere near as energetic, fun, or original as its predecessor. And, honestly, how could it be when three of the group's strongest points ' Dan the Automator, Del, and the eerie sound ' are removed from the equation. Personally, I'm not a big enough fan of Albarn to believe he can carry this project all on his lonesome. He makes a valiant effort, and Demon Days should not be disregarded completely, but tally this one up in the "disappointment bin" for 2005.
6.3 / 10
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