Gorillaz’s “Demon Days” Album Review

Hello, I’m MusiCommentator, and this review was requested by DumCheese from Riley’s Backpack, so go check out that website.

I had known of Gorillaz existence before.  I knew that they were an alternative band who, with the help of an animator, made another band within their own band (conveniently named “Gorillaz”), who were a band from space.  It sounds confusing, but think about for a few minutes and it’ll make sense.  That was pretty much all I knew about them and, in actuality, they seemed like a cool band, but I never listened to them.  I felt that I would have to do research to fully understand their music and really analyze every lyric to understand what existential message it was attempting to convey.  However, the recommendation to review their debut album, and probably their most popular one, gave me the motivation to pick it up and actually listen to it.

Just as a fair warning, I do not know too much about all the characters’ names in Gorillaz or if they have separate personalities or anything, and I really have not watched their music videos either.  This may affect my view of their songs compared to yours or anyone else’s, so keep that in mind as I talk about the songs.  But, enough pandering.  Let’s get into what you came here for!

Song Synopses:

#1: Intro

There is not much to say about this.  It’s a minute long intro filled mainly with the phrase “Who put chemicals in the food chain” which, when repeated over and over and pitch shifted, gets really annoying.  However, I like the low yet fat bass line and the bizarre, galactic sounds that preview what type of beats you will hear on the album, and the last line about entering into the harmonic zone prepares you for the experience this album brings.

#2: Last Living Souls

The first real song on this album, it starts the project out strong.  It introduces one of many bass lines found on this album that are exceptional, and the beat just gets better from there.  When the weird, electronic drums come in with the wonky, high piano, it makes the entire song a catchy jam.  2D’s vocals (who is the lead singer in the fictional version of Gorillaz) are very strange.  To me, he kind of sounds like a hippie, but it works well with this song.  His monotonous, staggered flow works excellently over the jamming beat, and his voice picks up in emotion when the instrumentals flawlessly transition to a beautiful piano.  The lyrics are good as well, leaning more to the existential side of life, and for a band based on intergalactic proportions, these lyrics fit nicely.

#3: Kids With Guns (Feat. Neneh Cherry)

Gorillaz did not give featuring credits in the song’s names on the album, so I will do that for them.  You’re welcome.

This song comes with another great bass.  The space influenced sounds can be heard at the ends of the verses and the beeps reminiscent to hi-hats in the last minute of the track.  This song in particular shows that lyrics do not have to be everything.  Especially towards the end of the song, the instrumentals take over and create a fabulous outro.  Still, the lyrics sustain quality here.  It talks about how kids can become violent with the right tools, and the passionate chorus makes this clear.  As with the last one, this is a good song.

#4: O Green World

This is the first song on the album I really did not care for.  While I have liked the beats to the previous songs, I do not like the one Gorillaz gives us here.  It relies too heavily on “space sounds” and makes it feel like a cacophony of random alien noises.  And don’t even get me started on the awful screaming in the intro.  The “Aah” melody 2D gives to the background of this song is pretty cool, but it completely drowns out the already distorted lyrics.  I know I said in the last song that the instrumentals being focused on more than the lyrics is okay sometimes, but I’d still like to hear what the lyrics are saying, and as I have said, I do not like this beat, so just putting more focus on that is not good.

#5: Dirty Harry (Feat. Bootie Brown and The San Fernandez Youth Chorus)

Coming off of a poor song, Gorillaz makes their fifth track better than any of the others preceding it.  The beat is great, having a stellar bass as usual and a catchy rhythm to it, but the lyrics really shine here.  Tackling a similar theme as “Kids With Guns”, this song addresses how violence is becoming so prevalent in our society.  The chorus expresses how people need a protection now just to go out, and the kids in the San Fernandez Youth Choir really bring this message home.  Bootie Brown, even if that is one of the stupidest rap names I’ve heard, makes the song even better.  In his surprisingly energetic verse, he plays the role of one of the people that makes the kids in the chorus need to “have a gun”.  He details the reasons for his violence and how it is not entirely his fault, but the system’s, and the outro’s line “I need a gun/To keep myself from harm” makes the entire message even more impactful.  The cheery tone of the instrumentals makes this song quite deceiving, but the lyrics are amazing.

#6: Feel Good Inc. (Feat. De La Soul)

I bet most of you Gorillaz fans looked at this post to see my review of this song.  Arguably their most popular song of all time, it starts with a very recognizable bass line, then gets right into the infectious beat.  I cannot help but sing along to the “Sha, sha ba da, sha ba da, Feel Good” bridge whenever it starts.  2D’s verse is (as the song says) good, and the chorus keeps a simple acoustic guitar to make it stick out.  Not to mention, Trugoy The Dove’s verse is amazing.  Both of the artists work together spectacularly to make a narrative about conformity that is very easy and fun to listen to.  Making it so catchy is almost ironic compared to the song’s message, but that just makes it even more fun.  Isn’t mob mentality great?

#7: El Mañana

A stark contrast from “Feel Good Inc.”, this song is very mournful.  While the drums continue to be danceable, this song is filled with many sad chords produced by piano and strings.  The lyrics add to the somber themes of the track, talking about summer going away, which is usually seen as a time of happiness, and when the track “November Has Come” is only a couple songs after this, it is plain to see that this was made intentional.  The hook is my favorite part of the song. 2D pulls out the most emotion he can when singing the dark lyrics “I saw that day/Lost my mind/Lord, I’m fine/Maybe in time you’ll want to be mine”.  This is a great example of a sad song, and I would highly recommend listening to it when you are in that right mood to absorb it in all it’s glory.

#8: Every Planet We Reach Is Dead (Feat. Ike Turner)

Gorillaz keeps on rolling with another amazing song.  Out of all the songs on this whole album, this has the best guitar in it, no question about it.  The static bass along this funky, bouncy guitar and staccato piano notes makes the instrumental interludes a joy to listen to.  The instrumentals calm down when 2D is singing, but it still works harmoniously with his voice.  The lyrics in this song paint a picture of desolation.  2D presumably talks of a lover, but the relationship does not go well, and he uses vivid imagery and figurative language to make this clear.  Some grand trumpets come for a short time in after the third verse and the late Ike Turner plays a marvelous piano solo.  Honestly, everything about this song comes together so nicely, making this a fabulous track.

#9: November Has Come (Feat. MF DOOM)

MF DOOM, like Gorillaz, is another one of those artists that I really want to listen to but do not have the proper motivation to.  This song gave me the first two verses I have ever listened to of his, and wow, have I been missing out.  MF DOOM has a crazy flow and rhyme scheme here, all the while being able to convey his message that the rap game has depreciated in quality.  With lines like “Slow it down some/No split, clown bum/Your gold hit sound dumb/Hold it now, crown ’em” and “Plug your trap or it’s maximum exposure/Beats got family members askin’ him for closure”, who could question his lyrical genius.  Gorillaz themselves are not lost in this track, though, as 2D’s chorus relates very well to MF DOOM’s verses and relating it to the sadness of endings, even though Gorillaz does sound like a feature on their own song.  The beat is not as awesome as some of their others, but the lyrics make this song quite a treat!

#10: All Alone (Feat. Roots Manuva and Martina Topley-Bird)

The drums and bass in this song remind me of “Last Living Souls”, but it is very different from that track.  2D’s chorus shows a dark message, supported by Roots Manuva’s slick verse and Martina Topley-Bird’s melodic bridge.  I would also like to point out that there are a few alien sounds before the bridge that I found to be really cool.  This does not affect the song too much, I just felt like saying it.

#11: White Light

I do not know many Gorillaz fans, but I feel that many people would not like this song.  However, I do not mind it.  The lyrics only consist of the words “White light” and “Alcohol”, but when looked at with a critical eye, this song has a good meaning.  The repetition of these words is saying that alcohol can lead to the “white light”, which is confirmed to be heaven by the angelic interlude in the middle of the song.  The song is generally short, but it does not get boring due to the high-energy drums and bass throughout.

#12: DARE (Feat. Shaun Ryder)

This song was the second single for the “Demon Days” album, but if this was one of the first tracks I heard from this band, I probably would have been hesitant to listen to more of their music.  For me, this is just kind of a boring song.  There is nothing special or great about the instrumentals compared to other songs on the album, and it has the female of the fiction band Gorillaz, Noodle, singing most of it.  I would not have a problem with this if the song consisted of more than her singing the bridge three times with Shaun Ryder’s annoying voice interjecting for the hook and even joining Noodle on the bridge.  This is a not a bad song, per say, but I would probably not replay it again.

#13: Fire Coming Out Of The Monkey’s Head (Feat. Dennis Hopper)

With a title like that, I was a little excited to hear what this song contained, but I was sorely disappointed when I listened to it.  Do not get me wrong, I get the message of the song, but it is the way that it was executed that bothers me.

See, I have a problem with songs that have more talking than singing.  When you listen to an album, these types of songs are interesting and refreshing to listen to at first, but once you listen to the album a second, third, fourth, and fifth time, this type of song becomes really annoying.  I know you have all had an experience with this kind of track before, and I will bet you money that you have skipped past that track on multiple occasions.  They are just not fun to listen to after a while.  This narration could have been sung and it would have been a good song, because the singing sections 2D does are actually composed quite nicely.  I would also like to point out, however, one line in the outro that reads “O little town in U.S.A., your time has come to see”.  The mention of the United States, I feel, knocks the album out of its timeless, intergalactic story, which just makes this song even worse.

#14: Don’t Get Lost In Heaven (Feat. The London Community Gospel Choir)

On this song, Gorillaz teams up with The London Community Gospel Choir to make a song about trying to get into heaven but being locked out.  The lyrics are good here.  There is nothing super unique about them, but they suffice.  The smooth, heavenly chords of the song are quite nice, and all voices are good, but there is something about this song that does not appeal to me.  Its whole ambiance just turns me off.  In all aesthetic ways, it is passable, but it does not fit with the rest of the album.  Compared to the blaring basses and catchy drums the rest of this album offers, this song feels like it does not belong here.

#15: Demon Days (Feat. The London Community Gospel Choir)

So, we’re finally here.  This is the moment we’ve all been waiting for.  What have I to say on the final song of this album, which also happens to be the title track.  The title track of many albums is usually a song that is meant to serve an awesome purpose and act almost as a thesis statement to an album.  There have been many great songs on this album, so this one should top all of them, right?  Well…not really.  I do not like 2D’s falsetto on here, and while The London Community Gospel Choir makes up for this with their well-sung voices, the instrumental is really nothing too incredible either.  This song is just like the last one: good enough, but not fitting with the rest of the songs on here.

Look, I understand that these songs have a purpose and are structured like this for a reason.  All of the songs on here carry a loose, underlying narrative that can be seen when carefully deconstructing the lyrics.  However, just because you are making a deep message does not make your song automatically good, at least in my book.  Most of the other songs on this album carried a passion and a fervent energy, but the last few songs on here lack that, and while I get what they are trying to portray, I still do not like them as much.  This song is a boring song.

Summary:

I know that I was being quite harsh on these last few songs, but I like this album a lot.  I like it more than I thought I was going to.  The instrumentals on most of these songs are so experimental and fantastic that they are an experience to listen to, and the lyrics write a story that is worth hearing.  In my humblest of opinions, I think this album has a bit of trouble lifting off during the first few songs, which I would describe from good to decent, but once “Dirty Harry” comes, this project skyrockets, and I mean that.  At that point on, I hear song after song with remarkable beats and extraordinary lyrics.  However, I believe that this ends after “White Light”.  “DARE” was just okay, and I was not appealed by the rest of the songs.  But, that does not makes the songs I did like on this album worth skipping.  I know that I will be coming back to a majority of these tracks many more times.

I had an indescribably tough time picking out my favorite song.  “Feel Good Inc.” was obviously the catchiest song of the album, and definitely the most popular, and “November Has Come” contains some of the greatest flows and lyrics on this album.  However, I had to give the crown to “Every Planet We Reach Is Dead”.  This song contains the best instruments compared to any other song, the lyrics are strikingly captivating, and Ike Turner did not fail to make a memorable piano solo.  My least favorite, though, was “O Green World”.  I know I made it seem like the end of the album had the worst songs, but this was an exception.  Standing on the opposite side of the spectrum as “Every Planet We Reach Is Dead”, this song had the worst beat.  It is a prime example of what can go wrong with too much experimentation.  The drums are wonky, the bass is ear grating, and that damned scream is so annoying.  Plus, the lyrics are barely audible over this monstrosity of a beat.

I really wanted to give this album something around an eight, but the last few songs force me to give Gorillaz’s “Demon Days” a 7.5 out of 10.  Do you agree?

Thank you for reading my “Demon Days” review. If you liked this review, make sure to follow my website, Twitter, and Instagram, like this post, and be sure to check in to read my future reviews. Also, if you have a song or album you would like to see reviewed, tell me in the comments. Until then, keep listening to good music! I know I will.

 

 

 

Advertisements

3 thoughts on “Gorillaz’s “Demon Days” Album Review

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s