By Reynaldo Torres
Everyone has their favorite band they listen to. But what if I were to tell you that there is a band completely made up of animated characters, yet they still hold in-person concerts for thousands of fans around the world? For those who don’t know who I’m talking about, let me introduce Gorillaz.
Their most recent album, “Song Machine, Season One” is definitely one for all of their fans, new and old alike. The album is a little over an hour long and has quite a mix of upbeat songs like “Désolé” and “Opium,” combined with more serious and slower songs like “Dead Butterflies” and “Pac-Man.
Before we look at the current state of Gorillaz, we have to go back to the beginning. Started in 1998 by Damon Albarn and Jamie Hewlett, Gorillaz was the world’s first all-digital band originating in the U.K. The animated band member names, however, are completely different in both appearance and personality. The four members are Stuart Pot, more commonly known as “2-D,” Murdoc Niccals, Noodle, and Russel Hobbs. Each member has their own origin story that is explained in the Gorillaz Universe, which is quite similar to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The band depicts their shenanigans either through short films like “MTV Cribs” or their music videos, and through these videos we find out how the band was formed.
The band’s bassist, Murdoc, actually ran over 2-D while trying to steal some music equipment. Instead of going to jail, Murdoc was forced to take care of 2-D which led to their “friendship.” Murdoc had realized he needed a singer for his band and managed to convince 2-D to be his vocalist. They then kidnapped Russel to be their drummer, who is currently possessed by a friend who died in a driveby, Del 3000. Finally, Noodle saw their ad all the way in Osaka and mailed herself to them at just eight years old. From there, Gorillaz began to make their legacy and tell their tales of adventures, sorrow, and joy.
“Song Machine, Season One” is a different album than Gorillaz fans are used to hearing. Each usually has a main theme or tells a certain story about the crew’s latest adventures, but this album serves as something entirely different: a bridge into “Phase Four” of the Gorillaz Universe. It’s actually a collection of various songs released throughout 2020 along with various new deluxe versions. Although the songs do not fully relate, it still allows listeners to understand what is to come in the band’s future.
The band wanted to embrace the change in music we can see in today’s music industry. This is why there is such a variety of song themes in this album. You could be listening to a more rap-based song like “How Far?” featuring Tony Allen and Skepta, which also gives a kind of spooky Halloween vibe with the background instrumentals; then the theme will shift to a more party-vibe song like “Chalk Tablet Towers,” featuring St. Vincent.
This album is a great way to see how diverse Gorillaz can be in their music, and I highly recommend it to new listeners. Some of my personal favorites from this album are “The Valley of The Pagans,” “Friday 13” and “Dead Butterflies.” “Dead Butterflies” offers a more somber and lofi pop vibe to the album, making this song perfect for late-night drives or cramming for your exams.
Since I used to only listen to their regular hits that were more so based around “chill vibes,” “Friday 13th” was a nice break from their usual sound. Lastly, “The Valley of The Pagans” is a great beach day song. It’ll definitely brighten up anyone’s day with just the beat. These three songs alone could give any listener a great overall view of this new album.