Demon Days

Gorillaz

EMI, 2005

http://www.gorillaz.com

REVIEW BY: Sean McCarthy

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 02/27/2006

When marketing Demon Days, Gorillaz should have hired the same firm that marketed 1999s black comedy American Beauty. For that movie's poster, the tagline "look closer" pulled audiences into the alluring shot of a teenager's navel. With Demon Days, the tagline could be altered to read "listen closer." Because the first listen sure as hell won't grab you. In fact, it may repulse you.

Those who thought Damon Albarn officially rode Blur off the deep end of the music world with 2003's Think Tank will have their beliefs confirmed with the plodding third track, "Kids With Guns." Gorillaz follows that song up with "O Green World," a song that sounds as if Albarn was singing the track from a dentist's chair.

The album continues to go in seemingly insane, self-indulgent directions. We have Dennis Hopper doing a seemingly pointless spoken-word track ("Fire Coming Out Of A Monkey's Head") and the king of control freaks, Ike Turner, dropping in to contribute a piano solo on "Every Planet We Reach Is Dead."my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

The fine vocal talents of Neneh Cherry and Martina Topley Bird are utterly wasted, as they are primarily background vocals on their respective tracks. At the end of the first listen, most people would totally accept why Dan "The Automator" Nakamura jumped ship after the Gorillaz' self-titled debut.

Still, the album throws you enough bones to lure you back in for a second listen. For starters, the band offers "Dare," a song Prince should be kicking himself for not writing. And the album closes with a gorgeous chorus from the London Community Gospel Choir.

As for the rest of the album, call it the "Feel Good, Inc." effect. At first listen, you question who had the balls to release this as a summer single. The song starts off with a killer bass line, but the chorus could be a '60s protest anthem -- and suddenly, De La Soul comes in and crashes the party. Still -- God knows how -- producer Danger Mouse makes it work enough for you to want to listen to it again…and again…and again.

Adding to the overall weirdness of Demon Days, EMI (Gorillaz's record label) notoriously served Danger Mouse a cease and desist order for his Jay-Z/Beatles mash-up, The Grey Album. EMI wisely chose not to let this legal issue interfere with the opportunity of having a white-hot producer man the boards for a band that could have easily been a one-hit wonder with "Clint Eastwood."

Danger Mouse was rightly nominated for a Grammy for producer on Demon Days. What at first listen was a career-ending album slowly begins to unveil its layers. Neneh Cherry's barely-recognizable background vocals become a sultry homage to Salt-N-Pepa's "Push It." The out-of-place cocaine beats of "White Light" make its middle all the more soothing and rewarding. Even without reading the reviews about the album being a sort of concept album about the deterioration of the planet, you begin to notice an overall flow that makes you feel guilty for skipping a track.

The placement of obscure musical personalities, an 'it' producer and … let's face it, cartoon characters as band members smacks of novelty. However, on Demon Days, Gorillaz reveal a band that deserves to be taken seriously, two-dimensional or not.

Rating: B+

User Rating: Not Yet Rated


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© 2006 Sean McCarthy and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of EMI, and is used for informational purposes only.