Gorillaz, the “fictional” band lead by Blur’s Damon Albarn, have returned with their new album Demon Days. Things are decidedly different this time around with Del The Funky Homosapien and producer Dan “The Automator” Nakamura exiting the group. Danger Mouse, the man behind the Jay-Z/Beatles mash-up The Grey Album, replaces Dan as producer on this album. Even with the changes, the music hasn’t suffered. In fact, it actually got better.
Demon Days is darker, stranger, and more cohesive than its predecessor, 2001′s Gorillaz. Once you hear the intro, with its strains of music sampled from the score to the original Dawn Of The Dead, you realize that this album won’t be full of sunshine. Despite that, it’s a lot of fun to listen to. “Dirty Harry” is an infectious song that features both Bootie Brown of The Pharcyde and a children’s choir.
“Feel Good Inc,” the album’s first single, is the most upbeat song on the album and features an appearance by De La Soul. “Every Planet We Reach Is Dead” is an old-school funk/rock jam with none other than Ike Turner (yes, that Ike Turner) providing a piano solo. “Dare” is poppy, made for the club, and one of the few songs that doesn’t have Albarn on vocals at all. “Fire Coming Out Of The Monkey’s Head” is a bizarre track that has Dennis Hopper providing a spoken-word narrative.
The album’s final two songs, “Don’t Get Lost In Heaven” and the title track “Demon Days” are haunting and beautiful. They feature vocals by a gospel choir and lead into one another quite nicely.
Ultimately, Demon Days may be one of the biggest surprises of the year. At times dark, brilliant, strange, catchy, fun, haunting, and cinematic, it’s in a class of its own. It shows how creative Damon Albarn really is and proves that The Grey Album was no fluke. I can’t wait to hear what Albarn and Danger Mouse put out next whether they work together again or separately.
NOTE: I picked up the limited edition version of this album. It comes in special packaging that features a fold-out box for the CD that has artwork of the band. It also has a full-color booklet and a DVD with the video for “Feel Good Inc,” short animated clips, an extra track that is audio only, and a weblink to exclusive downloads. I wouldn’t recommend this limited edition to a casual Gorillaz listener, but it’s fun for fans. The extra song, “The Swagga” isn’t that bad but the audio commentary by the “band members” on the video for “Feel Good Inc” is almost worth the price of the limited edition alone.