Right – so we’ve had a breather from the Gorillaz for a hot minute now, we’ve had Humanz, and we’ve had a rather amazing tour, and now it feels high time to put into print the top 10 tracks Damon Albarn’s animated super group have put out, in there nearly 20 year history.
With every release of the Gorillaz, there is a decidedly different sound, from a range of noises, like old school blues to punk infused naughtiness in the self-titled debut, to the electro daydream of Plastic Beach, and most recently to the rocky dance hits of Humanz.
So here we have it, the top ten tracks from the Gorillaz.
So at the start of the list we have this chronic-concerned track from Humanz, called Momentz, by the Gorillaz (I couldn’t help myself sue me). The track itself features the fantastic De La Soul, who appeared on Demon Days, and Plastic Beach, in the tracks Feel Good Inc. and Superfast Jellyfish respectively; and this Gorillaz veteran really hits it out of the park on this track, with verses that easily electrify the listener, and move perfectly in time with the fun, rock tunes going through behind the lyrics.
Coming very early in the album, it is part of the tour de force that, regardless of your views on the band’s latest release, is a perfect start to the album. It is beautifully geared towards a dance heavy sound to fantastic effect and including a frequent collaborator was a smart move; serving as a safe space for long term fans who may be hesitant of the old dogs trying some new tricks, Murdoc and the gang prove they’re more than up to the task and the results are proof the venture is worth it.
9. Tomorrow Comes Today
Jumping from the present, back to the band’s debut LP, we have Tomorrow Comes Today, which embodies a sense of cool, grim melancholy. This is communicated in the droning, off sounding guitars, and the slow, chilled out vocals.
From the album D-Sides, we are gifted this funky, albeit dark, track, which comes across as a kinda satirical look at pop music, and the kinda lad culture that goes with it sometimes. It starts with a simple sounding drum-bass combo, and eventually spirals into a really dark horror sounding electro vibe, while constantly whittling on with nonsense lyrics (“I’m walking to the something,Bla bla bla bla bla bla bla, Collapse, I’m drinking too much bla bla, Bla bla bla bla bla bla bla“) – it’s just utterly mad.
The weird lyrics, and the very prog rock sounding sounds, leaves us with this very catchy, ultra groovy bop that is one of the Gorillaz weirdest hits. The band smack together nothingness and some groovy noises to give us a fucking fantastic track, from an album filled with B-sides and cut content from Demon Days.
Right, we’ve had three tracks which are very electronic sounding, it’s time for something a bit different: 5/4.
This track (again from their self titled debut), is a very guitar heavy track, until the very end. It has a slightly odd sound, like how Blur might sound if they were in a universe where everything was more or less the same but three seconds of industrial dub was required in all music; it plays like your normal rock song, with solid vocals and lyrics, and a great backing vocalist, as well as great rhythm guitars and drums.
The way the song takes all its relatively simple pieces and puts them together, enticing the listener more and more with each passing second, in addition to the brief industrial sounding moments of electronica near the end really summed up what Gorillaz would be as a project: doing varying genres of music, doing them really well, and more often than not turning them into completely different things in the process.
6. Feel Good Inc.
Right, nae shouting, I am fully aware that this is probably the most popular Gorillaz track, and not undeservedly so: the track is fucking legit. It was indicative of what would become the Gorillaz sound. They have the powerful electronic sound as well as mighty swells from just guitars and unaltered vocals – as well as a wee feature from an absolutely fantastic featuring artist in the form of De La Soul.
The hot single, off the band’s second proper album Demon Days, has a very poppy feel to it, being very clearly structured, and a whole kinda sing songy vibe to it, which is not a sound heard often from the band: a somewhat welcomed change of pace.
BOOF WE’RE HERE! We’ve cracked the top five and this first spot in it happily goes to the joyous, clappy, energetic Punk which – as I’ve already said – creates a almost textbook expression for the kind of genre it wants to be, and this time it’s on the tin: punk.
Punk kind of stirs in lots of classic punk influences, from the Pistols, The Clash, and – to me anyway – mostly the Ramones. It starts with a shedding of the electronic sounds, having them in there but giving way for the perfect sounding drums and claps exchange. It is then followed by vocals from Albarn, which sound just perfectly punk, kind of moany at the start, getting angrier and angrier. This track is just fab and could start a party wherever ye liked.
Up next is the automotive Stylo, off 2012’s Plastic Beach, a very electronic, featured artist heavy album. This track packs in Bobby Womack and Mos Def, both of whom have fantastic little bits in the track that would make perfect title and intro credits music to a weird 80’s B-Movie.
It has a constant RnB vibe to it, communicated in really lovely beats, and delightful vocals from Albarn/2D. It’s all of this and more than results in one of the band’s most amazing tracks.
3. Rhinestone Eyes
Oh, another track from Plastic Beach!!? Madness. No but for real, this songs haunting, prophetic, maddening vibe is really something to marvel over; the vocals are convincing, and emotional through voice alterations, and constant impossible-not-to-groove-to-tunes and then spiraling into rabid chanting choruses.
Popping early up in the album, it was imperative that Gorillaz impressed and they really fucking blew the roof off with Rhinestone Eyes. The track’s mish mash of different sounds and different tempo for the music is just, to put it simply, utterly pleasant.
2. Fire Coming Out of The Monkey’s Head
The Penultimate track. The Silver medal. Fire Coming Out of The Monkeys Head. This track (also off the fantastic Demon Days) has a kind of radio play/ radio news report vibe – this is owed greatly to top quality narration by actor Dennis Hopper.
The track, which consists mostly of this narration and smooth beats bounce in the background, has an unknowable Lovecraftian sorta feel to it and things narration wise get suitably dark to suit this eerie palette. Damon Albarn comes back with audibly sweet lyrics, though continuing the dreary tone with some apt negative lyrics, backed by accoustic guitars. It’s hard to describe this song: it’s a wee story, but also such a conventional song, probably the most odd track the band have put out.
Spot number one, after much deliberation, goes to Clint Eastwood. The Gorillaz are no the kind of band that have one track which is definitively the best, they have a couple to be honest, and deciding on the el honcho was hard. However, Clint Eastwood blends fantastically vocals from Albarn and the rap feature from Del the Funky Homosapien , all backed by a cracking electronic tune, reminiscent of the theme from The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly.
But what really sets this song apart is the kind of honesty of this track: it is a culmination of music with obvious rock and pop influences, as well as hip hop, and electro. For many it was the jumping off point for their enjoyment of the Gorillaz, and for an equally great number, the first few notes will let them know they’ll enjoy the next three or so minutes, as they will do the rest of their catalogue.