Gorillaz’ masterful Demon Days

Saturday, August 04, 2018, 10:18 PM EDT

gorillaz hip-hop indie

  • Name: Demon Days
  • Artist: Gorillaz
  • Year: 2005
  • Label: Parlophone
  • Genre: Alternative hip hop
  • Length: 50:43

Album Review: Demon Days by Gorillaz

Demon Days is Gorillaz’ sophomore album and continues their brilliant tradition of mixing hip hop, electronic, rock, and indie influences into a wonderfully eclectic sound. Gorillaz, of course, is the innovative British “virtual band,” consisting of animated members 2D, Noodle, Murdoc, and Russell; Damion Albarn (of Blur fame) is the musical mastermind behind the group, while Jamie Hewlett draws the characters and concocts increasingly creative ways to integrate the “virtual” band experience into real life, including during live concerts. Famously, the duo performed Demon Days’ excellent “Feel Good Inc” with Madonna to open the 2006 Grammy’s by using Pepper’s ghost to project a hologram of Gorillaz members for audience members and TV viewers.

Wikipedia and several other sites claim that “Albarn has said that the album is meant to be a depiction of a journey through the night in which each track represents a confrontation with a personal ‘demon’;” while I can’t find any actual evidence that Albarn commented that, it’s a useful lens through which to examine the themes of this album. Gorillaz addresses challenges on a scale from the highly intimate to the global and political. In “Fire Coming Out of The Monkey’s Head,” Albarn sings about human exploitation of the environment: “And as the strange folk mined deeper and deeper into the mountain / Holes began to appear / Bringing with them a cold and bitter wind … For the first time, the happy folk felt fearful,” while in “Every Planet We Reach Is Dead”, Albarn sings about personal isolation and loss: “I want to see you again / I love you / But what are we going to do.”

These more reflective, almost mournful tracks clash brilliantly with explosive rap tracks, like the indefagitable “Feel Good Inc,” which features the brilliant Long Island hip hop trio De La Soul. “Feel Good Inc” celebrates to the spirit of innovation and noncomformity in the midst of an increasingly uniform and melancholy world. With the contribution of a fabulously catchy hook, Gorillaz imagines “a melancholy town where we never smile,” ostensibly managed by the song’s ominous-sounding namesake corporation. Trugoy the Dove pays tribute to the power of music (hip hop music in particular?) to combat conformist, consumerist pressures in in modern society: “Yo, we gon’ ghost town this Motown / With yo’ sound, you in the blink / Gon’ bite the dust, can’t fight with us / With yo’ sound, you kill the Inc.” And there is, of course, an excellent Steven Colbert live cover.

The rest of the album is a great listen, too. I love the moody electronica elements in “El Manana,” “All Alone,” and “Dirty Harry,” and the contrast between Damon Albarn’s trademark distant, crooning voice in choruses and traditional rap verses in, say, “November Has Come” and “All Alone”, which feature DOOM and Roots Manuva, respectively. The thing that’s so amazing about Gorillaz is their versatility, transitioning seamlessly from highly introspective, brooding electronica to driving, dance-poppy tracks to powerful hip hop without skipping a beat.

Demon Days was almost universally acclaimed upon release (an 82 on Metacritic); “Feel Good Inc” went platinum, picked up a Grammy for Best Pop Collaboration, and ended up on many critics’ best-of-the-decade lists. Give this excellent album a listen to see what Gorillaz’ sound is like!

Listen to Demon Days

Site redesign complete
Ratatat’s self-titled debut does it all