Gorillaz - D-Sides
Record Label: Virgin/EMI
Release Date: November 20, 2007
Gorillaz, created in 1998 by Blur’s Damon Albarn and Tank Girl’s co-creator Jamie Hewlett, have experienced extraordinary success. Though the music was created by Damon Albarn and various other musicians including Ike Turner, MF Doom, Dangermouse, and Simon Tong; Gorillaz is comprised of the four cartoon characters Russel, Noodle 2D, and Murdoc. The band’s two full-lengths, 2001’s Gorillaz and 2005’s Demon Days, were largely successful, selling millions of copies and earning the group accolades left and right including five Grammy nominations in 2006. In addition to the band’s largely successful albums, there is a slew of tie-in material including a documentary, action figures, and a game for mobile phones. Who would have guessed that a band comprised of cartoon characters would be so popular within the mainstream music community and music critics?
D-Sides is a two disc compilation of b-sides and remixes from the Demon Days recording sessions, with the first disc being comprised of the b-sides and outtakes and the second disc contains the remixes. “68 State” could serve as dance club fare with its slick keyboard flourishes and groove-driven beats coupled with quick guitar grooves. “We Are Happy Landfill” begins with a hodgepodge of electronic sounds before kicking into a mixture of steady beats and distorted garage-rock fuzz. This track, while sounding interesting in theory, is underwhelming due to the awkwardly gruff sounding delivery of Albarn coupled with the mashing of the two styles presented on this track. While the first few opening tracks are enjoyable and listenable, they are easily overshadowed by “Hong Kong”. While the other tracks all feature varying amounts of digital effects and beats, “Hong Kong” is a lush piece that features zither, cello, viola, and violin accompaniment to Damon Albarn’s smooth croon and acoustic guitar melodies. When listening to some of the songs Gorillaz has released in the past, especially their singles, this was a refreshing surprise and one of my favorite tracks on this album.
“Rockit” is an electronica infused track that is enjoyable musical, but the drab vocals and repetitious blah’s quickly turn this song into an easily skippable track. “Murdoch Is God” is largely comprised of noisy squalls that bury the vocals and the result is a muddled track that most likely will be skipped over by fans once they have listened to D-Sides straight through a few times. “Spitting Out The Demons” is one of many tracks that serve as a reminder that Albarn’s talents and songwriting prowess are not limited to the confines of the Britpop sound he crafted in the confines of Blur, but work just as well in the other genres he chooses to experiment with. D-Sides closes on a high note with the serene beauty of “Stop The Dams” which, if someone heard this track without knowing who it was, would probably never think to attribute it to the Gorillaz. Fleshing out this track is the appearances of the Reykjavik West End Brass Band and Ghostigital.
Disc 2 compiles nine remix tracks which include contributions from Hot Chip, DFA, Junior Sanchez, and Soulwax. Listening to these original takes on Gorillaz songs is enjoyable at first, but after a few listens the novelty wears off and will leave many to strictly return only to the first disc of D-Sides. However, there are a few remix tracks that are worthy of repeated listens such as Junior Sanchez’s take on “Dare”, which could easily be placed on any play list intended for dance parties, and Hot Chip’s take on “Kids With Guns”. The one problem with the remixes on this disc is that out of nine tracks there are three “Dare” remixes and three “Kids With Guns” remixes, and it would have been interesting if there was more of a variety of tracks that appeared on this disc.
D-Sides, like many other b-side albums, has its fair share of gems that could fit amongst the tracks that made up Demon Days and tracks that were obviously cast aside for a reason. While I was never really a fan of the whole gimmick aspect of Gorillaz, the music was always appealing to me and ever since I first heard the band before their rapid ascent in popularity, I never could have imagined all the things this project would accomplish. While it seems this is the end of Gorillaz as a large pop-music project, there is still a film in the works and a soundtrack which will serve as the Gorillaz third album. While the Gorillaz have released two solid albums over the course of the project, I would only recommended D-Sides for diehard fans.
I really like 'Hong Kong' too. This album doesn't really have the, shall-we-say, integrity, of the other proper albums. Demon Days really was great though, perhaps this was just some of the songs that didn't make the cut...