A strong second album from Gorillaz, who – with the departure of Dan the Automator and Del Tha Funkee Homosapien – have become more Damon Albarn’s baby and less a proper ‘band’ since their self-titled 2001 debut. Nevertheless, Albarn has once again assembled an impressive array of collaborators, including Neneh Cherry, Shaun Ryder, and Denis Hopper. Original graphic Gorilla Jamie Hewlett (Tank Girl) makes a welcome return, contributing music videos and an album-cover illustration for every track. Production on ‘Demon Days’ comes courtesy of Danger Mouse, he of Beatles/Jay-Z mash-up ‘Grey Album’ fame. The juxtaposition of Albarn’s Britpop songwriting and hiphop production still remains at the heart of the Gorillaz project. Current single ‘Feel Good Inc’ is an unlikely-sounding but brilliantly infectious combination of verses from De La Soul and a Bealtesy chorus, held together with eighties electrofunk synth stabs and an irresistible dubby hiphop bassline. Other highlights include the handclappin’ funk of ‘Dirty Harry’ (perhaps an oblique reprise of ‘Clint Eastwood’ off their debut?), the lilting ‘Kids with Guns’, and Roots Manuva guest spot ‘All Alone’. Albarn may take himself a little too seriously at times, but this is still some of the most innovative and eclectic pop music being produced today.
To accompany their comeback album, ‘The Sound Inside’, Breaks Co-op have reissued their 1997 debut, and it stands up well. First released during the heyday of triphop (the age of Ninja Tunes and Massive Attack), ‘Roofers’ was light years ahead most local releases in terms of its production. The album still sounds accomplished, and the crackly Nina Simone samples and mellow, smoky vibe, while unmistakably ‘of their era’, have dated well. The album is mostly downbeat instrumentals, which feels a little unsatisfying, particularly since the few vocal tracks are outstanding, including, of course, the bona fide kiwi classic ‘Sound Advice’.
The sophomore effort from Britpop journeymen Athlete, ‘Tourist’, will function as an adequate stopgap for fans awaiting a new Coldplay album, but it’s surely not gonna set the world on fire. The recipe seems to have gone something like this: take two cups each of Coldplay’s melancholic piano, epic sweeping strings, and soaring romantic choruses; add half a cup of Radiohead’s themes of PoMo alienation, a teaspoon of their sonic experimentation; dilute; add sugar to taste; serve. Just be warned: this EMI CD is ‘copy controlled’, so it may not play on some CD players and it’s useless for your i-pod.
Between the Lines
That Auckland’s Danse Macabre wore their Joy Division influences on their sleeve(s) is obvious from the band photos in this important reissue CD. The icy synths, atmospheric guitars and pounding, echoy percussion show the clear influence of gothy British postpunk like The Cure and early 80s Factory Records acts (A Certain Ratio, Joy Division). ‘Between the Lines’ contains thirteen tracks off their two Trevor Reekie-produced releases from 1981 and 1982. The material has aged well – even at the time Danse Macabre received international recognition, when John Peel played ‘Conditioner’ on his radio show. This is a worthy purchase for adventurous fans of Interpol, The Fanatics et al.