The Real & The Phased Gorillaz

On February 24, 2-D, Murdoc, Russel, and Noodle of the Gorillaz released their 8th studio Album titled “Cracker Island.”

By Kyle Cicero

Photo Credit: Gorillaz Wiki

Damon Albarn and Jamie Hewlett, creators of the virtual band known as Gorillaz, continue a 25-year-long story with other talented artists, eclectic sound and glimmering visuals.

“You know, there are many alter-egos and Gorillaz is a collective of alter-egos really,” said Damon Albarn. “I think anyone who gets involved in it has to sort of accept that nothing is really as it seems.”

For new listeners it may seem like a lot to catch up on. It is important to know the full story of the group’s animated character, which has been a staple of their popularity and matches well with the alter-egos of the real life band members. 

2-D is the vocalist, Melodica player and alter-ego of Damon Albarn. Remi Kabaka Jr. is the record producer, drummer/percussionist, and voice actor of Russel Hobbs, whose father is a legend and forefather of the genre Afro-Rock in the 70s. 

Jamie Hewlett is a comic book artist, designer, and songwriter for the Gorillaz. With Albarn, he created the four virtual members who all have their own backstory. 

“Cracker Island” features three music videos, including an immersive live performance video that took place in Times Square. The album also headlines major artists like pop/rockstar Stevie Nicks, R&B artist and bassist Thundercat, and one of the biggest Latin artists in the music world, Bad Bunny. 

The tracklist was released months before the album release but fans simultaneously received a sneak peek into the LP with the single “New Gold”, featuring indie rock group, Tame Impala and Bootie Brown, a member of the iconic 90’s hip hop group, The Pharcyde.

“Just doing a video requires a ton of drawings, usually drawings that never get seen because they go straight into animation,” said Jamie Hewlett.

People born in the 2000s know the Gorillaz for their catchy music and messages provided through their music, but music listeners today who have grown through a physical and digital music era often fall on two different sides of the spectrum. 

One thing for certain is that visualizations of music have become more powerful than ever and the Gorillaz have emphasized that since 1998. 

As a person who was born in the 2000s, I appreciate the older music the Gorillaz made, but I still believe the 2023 album had some fragments of their classics with 2-D’s melancholic melodies, Russel’s drum breaks and other nostalgic collaborative production.

 “We’re just part of an evolution, which is inevitably that everything will be image-led,” said Remi Kabaka Jr.

In this Phase 7, The Static Channel, the four alter-egos are recording their album in Silver Lake, Los Angeles. They’re a ways away from their usual recording studio, Kong Studios, because it needs to be restored after a massive sinkhole damaged its foundation.

The music videos for the songs “Cracker Island,” “Silent Running,” and “New Gold” piece together what has happened with the four members in Phase 7 and it is totally worth the watch and listen. 

I would definitely recommend this album to first time listeners, but I would also encourage people to explore the rest of their discography, especially the album, “Demon Days.”

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