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Wednesday, November 28, 2007

GORILLAZ - "D-Sides" 63%

Reviewing a b-sides compilation album is not an easy task. First you have to take into consideration that the material was not recorded with the intention of being formed into a cohesive album. Secondly, you have to consider the recording as a companion piece to the album of which it was spawned from, in this case the 2005 blockbuster release “Demon Days”. And thirdly, you have to decipher whether the collection is at all necessary.

Damon Albarn is without a doubt one of the most prolific figures in modern music today. With word of a new Blur album on the way and the possibility of new material from The Good The Bad and The Queen in the near future, Albarn somehow still finds the time to release “D-Sides”, a splattering of Gorillaz outtakes, demos, sketches and b-sides (with an extra disc of remixes by DFA, Hot Chip and Soulwax, among others). And that is exactly what you have here. A few gems surrounded by some strange and experimental dabblings that don’t always add up.

Among the highlights are the opening track ‘68 State’, an atmospheric piece of ambient electronica that plays out like the score to a science fiction road trip through outer space. ‘People’, an early demo of ‘Dare’, succeeds by ultimately sounding very little like the huge hit that it evolved into. Another diamond in the rough here is the gorgeous ‘Hong Kong’, where Albarn croons woefully:

“The radio station disappeared
Music turned into thin air
The DJ was the last to leave
She had well-conditioned hair
Was beautiful but nothing really was there”

Not faring as well are the ill-fated ‘We Are Happy Landfill’, an agonizing track plagued by an overwrought vocal, and ‘Murdoc is God’, a left field noise-rock experiment gone awry. A few tracks are nice, but easily forgettable. ‘Hongkongaton’ and ‘Spitting Out Demons’ come off like unfinished sketches, resulting in something not unlike filler.

Despite the low points, the collection is not at all bad. These cartoon alter egos have fun at times, like on the silly new single ‘Rock It’, where Albarn sings “Stick it in your nose, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah…” Things stay playful on the relatively bizarre and reggae-tinged ‘Bill Murray’ and on ‘The Swagga’, an experimental disco-rock stomp complete with jubilant Whoo!’s.

But certainly the most solid effort here is the gorgeous closing track ‘Stop the Dam’. Originally included on the ‘El Manana/Kids With Guns’ single, the song features the kooky stylings of Einar Örn (of The Sugarcubes). On the bittersweet outro, Albarn repeats, “The sun will shine again, the sun will shine again”, which hopefully refers to another glorious incarnation of Gorillaz in the future.

-by Scot Bowman
Originally published on

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