By Erin Han, March 21, 2023
Boasting an A-list selection of collaborators, Gorillaz is back with their new album “Cracker Island,” marking the follow-up to their 2020 album “Song Machine, Season One: Strange Timez.”
The Virtual British band released their eighth studio album February 24, following a successful 2022 world tour. Gorillaz consists of four virtual members: 2-D, Murdoc, Noodle and Russell. The musical and visual artistry behind the virtual band is credited to the collective work of Damon Albarn and Jamie Hewlett.
“Cracker Island” features a 10-song track list – with the deluxe having 15. Notable features include Stevie Nicks, Bad Bunny and Tame Impala. The ‘80s synth-pop inspiration blends with the iconic Gorillaz sound to create a unique and captivating project.
The album opens with the title track “Cracker Island,” a colorful electro-pop song featuring Thundercat. The funky synths give the album high energy and a fresh pulse.
The lyrics of “Cracker Island” reflect on the album’s overarching theme, using imagery of islands as a commentary on the artificiality of society. “Cracker Island” criticizes a society built on a fragile foundation, one bound to crumble and fall. The album transports listeners to a paradise with an underlying dark aspect.
The band has an undeniable Latin influence since their 2001 self-titled debut album, and fans were thrilled when Albarn revealed he recorded a song with Bad Bunny September of 2021; a song that would later be released on “Cracker Island” titled “Tormenta.”
“Tormenta” is an ambient reggaeton track featuring jazzy chords and prominent bass. The melancholic yet hopeful melody reflects on Bad Bunny’s nostalgic aura and journey to find inner peace. In the lyrics, he says “make the most of me today, because tomorrow I’m gone,” evoking a feeling of being in paradise but still yearning for something more.
The track transitions smoothly to “Skinny Ape,” which starts out with a folk-inspired guitar riff before a layer of synths. The unexpected tempo change and ska breakdown featured in the drop transforms the song into an adrenaline-rushing synth-pop blast.
Perhaps the most impressive feature of the album is a Stevie Nicks collaboration titled “Oil.” It is second on the track list, immediately bringing out the psychedelic theme presented throughout the album. Despite being two highly distinct artists, Stevie Nicks’ hypnotic voice weaves beautifully with Gorillaz’s whimsically robotic sound.
The otherworldly theme continues into the track “New Gold,” featuring Tame Impala and his iconic, psychedelic rock sound. Both artists frequently use heavy synths in their songs, producing a similar sound that blends seamlessly. Tame Impala’s distinct vocals are featured for a bridge sung twice in the song and in the backing track.
With “Tarantula,” Gorillaz takes inspiration from disco but makes it subdued. The lyrics are about longing for a past lover and fantasizing about being with them again. This perhaps alludes to band member 2D’s lore. His last known lover betrayed him, which affected him deeply.
Gorillaz is known for dabbling with many genres, taking elements from pop, rock, hip-hop and electronic music, as well as their extended use of artist features. The band is also notorious for integrating different art forms like visuals. While Daman Albarn leads in music production, a slew of high-profile artists is behind their animated music videos.
Formed in 1998, Gorillaz embraces the use of technology to merge virtual and real life, often performing live in the form of on-stage holograms. Following a seven-year hiatus, Gorillaz released “Humanz” in 2017, showing how innovative they can be.
For the first time, the virtual band members appeared in a real-life interview to promote the album in the form of 3D animation which amazed fans. The 360-video accompanying the track “Saturn Barz” became the most successful 360 video debut of all time.
Listeners can always count on Gorillaz to do the unexpected and experiment with a variety of art forms, which is a true demonstration of innovation and creativity.
Feature image courtesy of Jackson Gray
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