D-Sides - the ones that got away.
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Monday, 19, Nov 2007 02:04
EMI, out now.
In a nutshell...
Some good, some bad, no queen
What's it all about?
Once upon a time Damon Albarn was just an indie pop icon who was in some band called Blur. About the same time, Jamie Hewlett was an artist who'd made a comic called Tank Girl which was later made into a fairly awful movie. But then Damon decided it was boring being in a really successful band and decided he needed a new project.
A few squiggles on some paper and up popped 2D, Murdoc, Noodle and Russel, four cartoon characters drawn by Hewlett who played music by Albarn. Gorillaz was born...
The band's self-titled 2001 album shifted over seven million copies and earned them an entry in the Guinness Book of Records as the Most Successful Virtual Band. In 2005 they dropped Demon Days, which saw people like Shaun Rider collaborate with a band that didn't technically even exist except on some computer screen. It was also fantastically successful.
Since then, Albarn's got bored of being anonymous and decided to form a different supergroup called The Good, The Bad and The Queen (suddenly our witty comment from earlier seems so much funnier).
But to keep the bank balance ticking over between retelling classic Chinese fairytales as modern opera and the next TGTBTQ record, Albarn and co have opted to release a record of Gorillaz remixes and rarities from Demon Days.
Who's it by?
Well, when talking about an animated band, the question becomes quite metaphysical. We could go into loads of detail about the back story of the fictitious band members and waffle on about how Russel is a middle-class New Yorker who was possessed by a musical demon when he was a child and so on and so forth. But frankly, it's all a bit geeky and makes me sound like someone who really likes Kubriks and spends my time waiting for the new stock on Kid Robot to be announced. So we'll leave all the guff to the people who already know it all (and if you're really bothered and don't know, there's this called Wikipedia which will instantly dorkify you).
The main men behind the Gorillaz in the real world are Blur's Damon Albarn and cartoonist Jamie Hewlett. Along the way, they've roped in some pretty talented musician to help out. People like Del tha Funkee Homosapien, Dan the Automator and D12 (minus the only really good one) have all lent a hand.
As an example...
I'm coming up, I'm coming up, I'm coming up, it's dare." - Dare
Likelihood of a trip to the Grammys?
Previous Gorillaz efforts were heavily lauded. The debut was nominated for the Mercury Prize 2001, but subsequently withdrawn at the band's request. Then Demon Days went five times platinum in the UK , double platinum in the US and earned five Grammy Award nominations for 2007, winning Best Pop Collaboration with Vocals category. In light of this, it's fairly massively unlikely that a load of songs which didn't make the cut the mustard the first time round will get any awards.
What the others say.
"The best songs, ironically, aren't really Gorillaz tunes at all, but seem to have wound up here for want of a better home." - Stephen Trousse, PitchFork
"Crazy as a second Gorillaz B-sides album might sound, this rummage through the Demon Days cutting room floor is totally justified." - Barry Nicolson, NME
So is it any good?
There's something really odd about an album of b-sides and rarities in the days of Limewire, Napster and iTunes. Back in the day, there was something really very cool about managing to finally track down that really obscure Bob Dylan rare live track on a C90 that you've been looking for for the last three months in every record store in the town. Now, however, all you have to do is go online and a couple of clicks later you've got that track you heard on Zane Lowe's show a few minutes ago. Instant cool.
So what's the point of releasing a load of slightly hard to get hold of tracks? Well, for one thing there are some actually good songs on this album. Hong Kong is amazing and the sort of song that would never get released on a regular Gorillaz record. And Rock It has the sort of ace video that you'd expect from a band that have a cartoonist in it.
But then there's some absolute rubbish. When Damon raps its just a bit embarrassing and lots of the tracks sound like 'proper' Gorillaz's songs that they never got round to finishing off or adding vocals to.
And then there's the remix-packed second album. Its got several really good reinterpretations of good songs (the Stanton Warriors' breaksy edit of Feel Good Inc and Hot Chip's glitchy Kids with Guns spring to mind) and some ones that were good a few years ago. Listening to DFA's Dare two years down the line, it just sounds a bit annoying and really, really, really, really long. The surprise of the record is probably the 'Chinese New Years version' of Dirty Harry which I'd never heard before but is exactly what you want in a remix - it makes you completely forget what the original ever sounded like.
Yet again though, we're faced with something of a problem. If you are the sort of person who likes remixes then you're bound to own the ones that you want already. If you don't like remixes and rarities then why would you want a whole album of stuff that wasn't good enough to make the final cut the first time round?