After much teasing on TikTok with the lovable characters of Gorillaz, fans were finally able to dive into the world of “Cracker Island” last Friday. This album is packed full of songs that feature many recognizable artists, including Stevie Nicks, and songs that take the listener through a story.
Lead singer of the band Blur, Damon Albarn, has also been the lead vocalist of Gorillaz since 2001. For those who are unfamiliar with the band, it is made up of cartoon characters. Albarn voices 2-D, the blue-haired, empty-eyed lead singer of the band. Murdoc Niccals is the bassist, known for his sickly green skin. Then, there is Russel, the band’s drummer, and Noodle, the lead guitarist.
The album begins with the already-loved song “Cracker Island.” Albarn’s vocals as 2-D are monotonous and follow the hypnotizing beat of the song. 2-D warns listeners of a cult, believably formed from societal consumerism. Lines surrounding a manufactured paradise of auto-tuned truth and sadness support this point.
The music video adds an extra element of storytelling to this album. Not only do we watch as 2-D, Russel and Noodle are taken into police custody at a hospital while Murdoc arrives in occult attire, we are also given a glimpse into what happened as the camera repeatedly switches to a news screen. It is reported on the television that they were taken into custody in the hills underneath the Hollywood sign due to an attempted occult ceremony.
Up next is “Oil.” The song begins with rhythmic drums following the synthesizer before Albarn begins singing with an echo following every line. The song only grows in mystifying vocalization as Nicks joins and harmonizes. The peak is when Albarn sings on his own, “I was on my own there / I was all alone / I got lost, intangible.” Nicks rejoins him after this line and listeners are left feeling chills.
“The Tired Influencer” comes next and can be understood as commentary on social media today. Something interesting that stuck out to me in this song was in the line, “‘It was a different time,’ I hear that a lot up in the hills / Logic kills on Silver Lake reflections.” This is another mention of the hills as well as a reference to Silver Lake, an area in Los Angeles near Hollywood.
Following is “Silent Running.” Albarn is auto tuned to sound more robotic as he sings about running in search of a new world. However, he is struggling with being drawn back by someone who had saved him before.
“New Gold” turns the spotlight on Tame Impala. This song is a rap about some aspects of our society, mentioning things like Teslas and Twitter. The resources of our generation are compared to riches that later reveal themselves to be fool’s gold. They emphasize how the worth of such a thing is temporary.
“Tormenta” is sure to have many fans as listeners get the musical prowess of Bad Bunny. He sings to a significant other, telling them they are the opposite of the mess of life and that they should make the most of today. Listening to this song feels like entering summertime.
The album takes a turn as we switch over to “Skinny Ape.” It seems as if 2-D has found the clarity he was searching for, and he imparts this song as a promise that he is going to be okay. The song maintains a deep tone with each line ending with the repetition of “ape.”
The peaks of the song come as Albarn sings, “And my intent is to breathe (ape) / In a new world / Don’t be sad for me.” The way the music drops to a swooning synthesizer in the background of his haunting voice left me speechless.
The album, and thus story, then comes to an end with the slower song “Possession Island.” 2-D reflects on the world he’s leaving. Yet, while he is ascending, he assures that we are all together until the end. Before the final chorus, the blaring of trumpets heightens the raw emotion in listeners’ chests, knowing they are not alone.
Overall, this album is mesmerizing from start to finish. I had heard that people were nervous about the new album, wondering if it would be more songs where Gorillaz stayed in the background behind other artists. However, Albarn really gripped the spotlight in this. I wonder what will happen next for 2-D and the gang.
Featured photo courtesy of Drew de F Fawkes, Wikimedia Commons