A mixture of sinister deep woodwind, discordant synths and sound effects brings us into Demon Days in the track Intro. This is joined by an off-beat drum, lending the mildest of reggae vibes. The sounds swell and a sustained electronic organ sound holds and a clear voice informs:
You are now entering the Harmonic realm.
A surreal and mildly dark mood is set and we are into the album.
Gorillaz is a virtual band consisting of fictional members, which brings a somewhat important point. In order the establish the band as an entity, the music videos have a deeper relevance than they would tend to do with other musicians. The principal figure behind the scenes is Damon Albarn, lead singer of Blur, orchestrating collaborations with various artists and musicians to lend a richer, more diverse style that centres on the rock/trip hop sounds. Here we focus on the music, overall.
The album starts very with a very minimalist vibe with rhythmic vocals beating over an electronic riff with a steady pulse and dub sound effects in the background, then runs into an acoustic riff, becoming more melodic and opening up; the album as a whole is a journey of a slow reveal, a feel of “we’ll do this a bit at a time.”
Personally, I really like the half spoken vocals against solid instrumental motifs. Kids with Guns uses this as the track gathers more and more energy. The “Easy does it, easy does it” line sort of reminds me of Ian Drury but I think that’s just more the unhidden Estuary accent raising its head. Continue with solid rumbling electronic bass as we progress, forever gaining pace toward…
Dirty Harry and Feel Good inc. the well chosen mid-point of this album. Dirty Harry carries the iconic chorus of kids juxtaposed with the very computer-sounding synths. The middle of this track gets aggressive with that scream and rapped segment and you get that we’re in a war here. The track closes down back with the chorus. Silence. That laugh… Then that bass line. Of course Feel Good Inc. is a favourite; it’s catchy as hell, well constructed, novel and musically great. This track is in many ways a culmination of this album, trying to mix everything well and spraying the vibe everywhere. The hook, rhythm and sound are infectious. Honestly I think many new listeners have to listen again.
The album mellows for the next couple of tracks, always taking advantage of that electronic sound and heavy bass. Here is the mark of trip hop, electronic reggae style beats with deliberate sounding rap. For the next few tracks I recommend solid listening, not having time to go into them fully, but you get such fantastic sounds and musical motifs all over the place. It’s a really solid mix of opposites, the fast and slow, heavy and light, mellow and aggressive.
DARE is another fan favourite with that well known riff, ethereal backing vocals and brilliant beat. I don’t need to talk much about it, the track speaks for itself and is one of those memorable numbers that, at least right now, feels it really won’t date. It doesn’t get too zeitgeisty so I’d like to think it won’t.
The last few tracks are also really worth listening to, all great sounding in their own right and the titular Demon Days being a really great closer. Again it’s that balance, along with a final splash of effort. You have been on this album’s experience here.
The real strength of Demon Days, the album, is its ability to experiment in a familiar way. It’s not the same old boring crap but rather a well crafted sonic experience. There’s something for everyone, perhaps more tightly wound than one would expect but that’s the point.
Is this album for you?
This album is so accessible! It really can be called one of the staple hits of the 2000’s for good reason. The problem is so many people have heard just one or two familiar tracks but not the lesser known. It’s not for everyone but what is? Why not just give the whole album a go!?
- Writing: 8/10
- Performance: 8.5/10
- Style: 9/10