red lights


On par with the first run


Gorillaz - Demon Days
(Virgin Records)
3 1/2 stars (out of 5 stars)
Reviewed: June 13, 2005

Review by Andy Argyrakis

When Damon Albarn isn't hanging with his blokes from Blur, chances are he's slaving away in the studio creating additional cuts and tweaking the identities of his other band- the comedic and cartoonish Gorillaz. Ever since its platinum selling debut nearly four years ago, the fictitious foursome of conjured up characters has been slaving away together in hopes of an equally attention grabbing follow-up, complete with their ghost writer's wittiness, programmed beats and carefully sculpted visuals. For those who've been living under a rock and might not have a clue what's being discussed, Gorillaz's Demon Days is simply the side project of Albarn, who teams up with artist Jamie Hewlett to draw the "players" and co-producer Danger Mouse for additional behind the boards support. Along the way, there are several guest vocalists and musicians, yet all the attention is assigned to the animated members Murdoc, 2D, Russel and Noodle (who appear throughout the CD's insert and booklet).
Those hoping for Blur's Brit-pop sensibilities won't find many similarities with Gorillaz, but fans of sophisticated hip-hop, trip-hop and soulful rock will have plenty to sink their teeth into. Much of that urban feel is drawn not only from the instrumentation and computer generated outpourings, but also the special guest collaborators sprinkled throughout the effort. "Feel Good Inc." is likely to be the most infectious, earning assistance from the voices of De La Soul who lay their signature twist rippling dance struts. R&B legend Ike Turner takes second place come "Every Planet We Reach Is Dead," mostly because he trades in his microphone for a howling piano solo in the middle of sublime groove. "Don't Get Lost In Heaven" takes on a totally different approach, mirroring something Moby might concoct, but backed with the majesty of the London Community Gospel Choir.
The celebrity factor of Dennis Hopper isn't quite as well implemented come his spoken word reading throughout "Fire Coming Out of the Monkey's Head." Though an album of this nature certainly has its room for humor, the cut borders on nonsense, while the backing track lacks the luster of previous illustrations (no pun intended). Another lesser moment is subtle Latin influence on the mid-paced "El Manana," which lacks the compelling messages of earlier expressions like "Kids With Guns" and "Last Living Souls." Such deductions may not match up to the majesty of the figurehead's other outlet, but Demon Days is at least on par with the first run around the block with plenty that's still palatable.

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