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The Battalion

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The BattalionMay 4, 2024

Criticism: Gorillaz’ ‘Cracker Island’

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Via WikiCommons

The virtual band Gorillaz recent release of “Cracker Island” delivers fun song after fun song.

 

Rating: 8/10

The novelty of the concept behind Gorillaz may have worn off, but the band can still make a hit album.

Gorillaz made its debut in 2001, as the collaborative brainchild of singer-songwriter Damon Alburn and comic book artist Jamie Hewlett. The idea of Gorillaz served as a rebellious act against mainstream music culture.

Alburn and Hewlett believed that the music industry had been tainted with artificial boy bands and oversaturated generic pop. 

“There’s nothing of substance there,” Alburn said in a 2005 interview with Wired. “So we got this idea for a cartoon band, something that would be a comment on that.”

Gorillaz and its four fictional members, 2D, Murdoc, Russel and Noodle, became an instant hit and have been an icon for innovative music ever since. With proceeding albums like “Demon Days” and hit songs like “Feel Good Inc.” — which has over a billion Spotify streams — Gorillaz proved that it wasn’t just a tacky concept, it produced great music as well.

Its 2010 studio album “Plastic Beach” is its best to date. Not only does the album feel epic in its scale and production, delivering new musical sounds and styles, but also exhibits one of Gorillaz’s greatest strengths: its features lists. 

“Plastic Beach” contained features from Snoop Dogg, Lou Reed, the National Orchestra for Arabic Music and a whole lot more in between. The band and its music always provide a unique mix of genres and influences, and leading musicians of those genres always get to play a direct part.

Their 2023 album, “Cracker Island” continues that tradition.

Contemporary jazz legend Thundercat, neo-psychedelic pioneer Tame Impala and Latin-pop superstar Bad Bunny are just a few of the artists that are brought in. Their talent, style and influence are all more than apparent while listening through the album.

Not only is “Cracker Island” elevated by its features, but Gorillaz’s own musical abilities are refined and enjoyable.

The 10 album tracks exhibit a range of all sorts of styles and colors, and when taken as a whole, the album is a very easy listen. Generally, though, “Cracker Island” sounds much more neo-psychedelic and dance than their past work. 

This shift in Gorillaz’s tone, however, makes its music sound more influenced than influential, like “Demon Days” or “Plastic Beach” were. Also, the artistic concept of Gorillaz isn’t as groundbreaking today as it was over 20 years ago. Now, it is fairly common to see one musician record all their own layers to make the sound of a full band. Tame Impala has not only influenced its style, but has also made Gorillaz’s one-of-a-kind selling point much less unique.

Yet this does not render its music obsolete or its style outdated. Gorillaz has still released an album containing hit song after hit song. There is a wide spectrum of enjoyability on “Cracker Island,” as a blend of funk, electronic, pop and much, much more are all intermingled in one of the most consistently great albums of this year.

“Cracker Island (feat. Thundercat)” is an electro-funk headbanger, “Oil (feat. Stevie Nicks)” takes the high energy through a spacey turn and “The Tired Influencer” is a classic Gorillaz-style pop hit. I could go on and on, but just know that every song has such fleshed out production and catchy melodies.

“Cracker Island” may not be the most ground-breaking album Gorillaz has released, but it sure is an enjoyable one.

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