Album in Depth: Demon Days by Gorillaz

Hi, I’m JotaKa. I’m a rocker by birth and grew listening to rock discs and long plays by the dozen. I have been always in the search for new and greater albums, and as a dive into the deeps to discover more concept albums and better ones, I stumble upon those cute little top 10 thingies that quite everyone does and possibly me after a while, if I ran out of source material. It was then that I found this “Top 10 Best Concept Albums of All Time” and, of course, stopped to read as I was looking for that.

The list, of course, was in terrible grammar, and it make me notice that this guy don’t have any experience in music whatsoever. He didn’t include any albums from the sixties, the seventies and eighties, which impressed me a whole lot, since I can’t count ten concept albums of the last two decade. My top ten list would probably ignore every last album this guy put in so much regard (except for the number one, which was American Idiot, that I would probably mention it as a runner-up). But, in fourth, there was that thing staring at me: “Demon Days” by Gorillaz. I was strucked in awe. Demon Days? Really? It’s not bad, at all, but… it is a concept album?

Of course, I ran to my chest to get my copy only to remember it wasn’t on LP. I forget, sometimes, that there were good albums in the compact disc format. So, as a open my drawer of CDs, the blackish coverart of the Demon Days pop up in vision, right between the debut album and Guns and Roses’ “Chinese Democracy” (you will have tour turn, probably). I spent a good one hour looking at it, and I remembered how I didn’t like it when I first bought it in late 2005 and how I was vastly more impressed by the debut album… But, again… Maybe it is? My craze for concept albums started in the last three years, so I may have overlooked the album a little bit. Looking at the tracks, it really doesn’t look as a concept album. Well, as again, a little background is required (I think).

The year is 2005. George W. Bush starts his second term. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire is the highest grossing movie (I dunno how that happen), Elton John get married with his long life partner and the only competition to the Nintendo Wii, the Microsoft X-Box 360, is released.

In this year, the virtual band known as Gorillaz was completing four years without a new album. There has been some new material, downloadable on the website, and there has been news about the new album, known as “Reject False Icons” at the time, that proved to be just a really cool marketing kind of cultural thingy. For those who do not know (there actually are people in the world that don’t know this by now), the band is only one person with diverse support acts. Who is the single person who takes control over the music? It is Damon Albarn, from Blur, which I guess got tired of the constant bickering with Oasis and wanted to start a new band. So, all the rumors that were circulating that the band really existed and it was really four guys, well, those went down the sink, which doesn’t mean that the “band” sucks. I mean, what’s the problem of having fictional members? If they can rock, they are rockers.

The virtual band Gorillaz is composed by 2D, a guy who went catatonic by a car accident and decided to get to music after the coma, on the vocals, Murdoc, a hooligan that ram his car into a wall and hurt 2D, on the bass, Russell, a guy that have easy spirit-channeling abilities, on the drums, and last but not least, Noodle, a Japanese guitarist in a box that didn’t speak much English on the beginning. If you search for the back story of the virtual band, you will get amazed. The story is ludicrous, stupid, jarringly psychedelic, incredibly unusual, but so much fun to read. I really suggest looking for it online, as they even have a book. It is dramatic and really curious. With the recent release of the third album, I can really hope that the story evolved and got better: that’s the good thing of having a fictional band; you can do whatever you want whenever you want wherever you want. I, as a DM, have already created some crazy-ass worlds and even in my best delusional days I would have made a world with three quarters of the insanity in this story. I, as a sucker for complex stories connected with music, even more good music, felt in love with Gorillaz. But still, the concept behind is of the career. The albums, per say, are NOT concept albums.

One really cool thing about this album in particular is the artwork in the cover. Instead of having the usual lyrics, it is a book with artworks for all the songs, which is a really inventive thing.

So, four years after the debut in that glorious 2001 debut, would they be able to surpass the old album? Critics worldwide said that yes, it does. It started in the UK charts in the number one spot and the number six in the US, which was above the debut in both. So, I shouldn’t postpone this more than I have, let’s get this over with: Demon Days by Gorillaz.

1st track: “Intro”: It is an intro. Confusing noisy lyrics, kind of like a classical score, but way grave and really profound sound, like as an suspense is being created. It really would work really well in a movie context, or even in a concept album context. Maybe it is a concept album after all.

2nd track: “Last Living Souls”: A kind of cheap beat with like a… strange atmosphere. The chorus is just low creative thinking. The melody, in all, is boring, as it tries really hard to be creative, with the use of strange noises, as well as a keyboard kind of like pressing random keys. At the acoustic guitar bridge, the song gets really goods, as it resembles James Blunt, although really better. If the songs was all this, it would be really greater. The strings part is really fantastic, but it goes back to the melody of always. Maybe it is a concept album after all, and the story is about the last living souls. Kind of like Universal Migrator, but really not subtle.

3rd track: “Kids With Guns”: The singing is uninspired, but it always have een, and it was always cool. The lyrics are boring, but the bass is really cool. The guitar that goes with it is also a cool one. The different part is really cool, as the keyboard strikes once more, but the vocals are kind of getting boring after one album only with this. This song kind of remembers of Tomorrow Comes Today of the first album, but… way worst. Even with that being said, it’s an okay song. It could be really used as a car commercial or a soda commercial. Even as a game tune it would have been okay, but the end is god awful.

4th track: “O Green World”: It starts awfully. The mix of techno, random noise and a well marked bass just… just… is horrible. It plains sucks. The vocals come, but only in an “O”, so, technically, it’s just missing the Green World. The vocals get a lot of useless effects that only make the song unbearable. The hip-hop effects that I guess couldn’t go missing is really fucking annoying. This song could be known as 4 minutes and a half of TRASH! This fucker should have been discarded in the fucking beginning. I remember now that when I first heard this mother fucker, I almost turned down the audio. It’s horrible, and no one should ever listen to it. Near the end, it gets cleaner, but I think the retarded they call the editor was sleeping before. Shit, I forgot to search for the concept earlier. Maybe because there wasn’t any.

5th track: “Dirty Harry”: This song is my major complaint of this album. I fucking hate it. It’s horrible and ridiculously bad made. It has the name of the so-so hero played by Clint Eastwood, a clear reference to the single of the debut album, that was good, but this song is horrible! It has a child choir, but the child choir sound like its going through the same torture 2D is going through, but that takes away the fucking best thing about the child choir: the enthusiasm it brings. The samples are just boring and the guitar really sounds more like bad editing that effect, although I believe it is an effect. And to make matters worse and add insult to injury, there is the first rap part of the album. Not like the debut album, this rap part is boring as HELL. The guy is a douche. The rapping is horrible. I guess that even to a guy that likes rapping would hate this shitter! I really am glad that this wasn’t on a good song, or it would have ruined. The rapping overshadows a quite interesting string on the background. I really get thankful when the bad recorded audio of the rest of the song comes back, with the boring guitar as in the start. Don’t hear this song! Don’t believe what the single charts says, this song is horrible! I can’t believe that this song, of all of them, got a fucking clip and has so many references to the great movie that is “Full Metal Jacket”. I really don’t understand why make references to Full Metal Jacket and not to, I don’t know, A FUCKING DIRTY HARRY MOVIE? I mean… there are five of them, I think. And all of them were released ages before this album, why not make them act a dirty harry scene? Or make them play the NES game? Really, man…

6th track: “Feel Good Inc.”: Talk about perfect placement. This song is the best song by far that the Gorillaz have in their entire repertoire. Everything is just perfect in this song. The rapping part mildly annoys me, but the bridge and the megaphone parts are really fucking awesome. The only thing that made me not throw this album on the garbage after the two shit holes that were the last couple of songs was this diamond in the shit. I mean, wow. Talk about differences in the song. This song is so fucking awesome, that I dare someone to not like it. The atmosphere it causes is so awesome. The laughter in the starts just makes it all worthwhile. The best singing, and for me the most important, the best bass lines in Murdoc’s career. The drumming is inspired and really catchy. It sounds so much like an electronic drum kit, but in most parts you can see that it isn’t. I mean… wow. Just… wow. This song is awesome. It’s really close competition between this song and 19-2000 on the debut album for the best song of the gorillaz career, with Tomorrow Comes Today and Clint Eastwood disputing for the third place.

7th track: “El Mañana”: Or, in good English, The Morning. The song starts calmly enough, with electronic beats and a calm Daft Punk feel to it. The song sounds really like a gymnastic song, but with a depressing singing, as does the 2D trademark. The lyrics are random, proving my point that this is not a concept album in any way. I can’t blame this song for not trying, but it could never get to be the greatness that was Feel Good Inc. The song ends in a quite dull point, making the song… well… dull. It’s a boring song, to say the least, as it couldn’t get any better than Feel Good Inc.

8th track: “Every Planet We Reach is Dead”: The songs start in a mixture of classical blues keyboard and a reggae guitar. Really strange mix indeed. The song sounds like a blues band, with the back vocals really making the extra mile. 2D sings about love, I think for the first time since the band started, in a really melancholic state, which is really cool. The lounge solo piano is distracting, and don’t add too much to the song. The songs gets really chaotic, as it even gave me a mind grain, as a sudden Pink Floyd synthesizer in midst chaos really surprised me. The strings work well with the, now jazz, piano as the guitar gets more energetic to the end, although it really stays longer than it should, with the end being cleaner and quite enjoyable.

9th track: “November has Come”: And with it, clapping, weird ass noise and bass. Oh, good, rapping song. It’s not that I don’t entirely like rap, but I think most of them are not trying to be original. They are just rhyming and complaining. The chorus is sung by 2D, and he also does back vocal, which is the best part of the song. If they released a version of this song with actual lyrics instead of a rap sheet, it would be really a good song. Well, at least it is a short tune.

10th track: “All Alone”: Apparently not completely alone, as he is playing with a voice modifier. There is only one sang word: Alone. The rest is rapping! I mean, why not add more rapping? It’s the only thing that pops to mind when I think Blur: Rap music! This song is worst then the previous. Maybe the problem is mine. Maybe the rappers are really genius for rhyming rapidly. The guitar bridge is pleasant, and… what? FEMALE VOCALS? What the hell? It’s noodle singing? Can she sing? Whoa, she sings well! Hot damn, who is she? Apparently, she’s Tina Weymouth, from the Talking Heads. I have to get back to this. Holy crap. If the song was all this, it would have been really a topper. But it isn’t. How could they waste good music like this? The “Alone” bits are getting quite pleasant with the passing of the song, not getting dull.

11th track: “White Light”: There some strange singing of white light, with a bass and a horrible recorded drum in the intro, as really obnoxious guitar comes to scene. It sounds like a midi file. I swear the lyrics are: “White Lights, Tutu, tutu, White Light”. The bridge part is once more phenomenal with a kind of choral, as it goes back to the White Light bit. It’s shit unless for the bridge part, I don’t understand why they didn’t get the bridges parts to be a standalone song.

12th track: “Dare”: The song sound like a DDR song, with noodle singing with 2D making a falsetto back vocal, that really go together well. This song gets the depressing happy feeling that Gorillaz is all about, but there is Austin Powers singing: “Cum Me, Oh!” all the fucking time, so the song loses some points. The song gets tiring, really fast. The keyboard bits look completely unrelated. When 2D stops singing in the background to noodles, and only Austin does so, it really loses some of its melancholic sound.

13th track: “Fire Coming Out of the Monkey’s Head”: The song titles never cease to amuse me, as it remembers me of “Everybody got Something to Hide except for Me and my Monkey”. The title, not the song. It starts by a storytelling people talking about the Happy Folk that lives on top of the hill isolating them of the others. This song is quite folkish, and it is really enjoyable, the singing part and the storytelling parts. It is really a beautiful piece, although completely random and devoid of reason if you are lazy to think two seconds.

14th track: “Don’t Get Lost in Heaven”: This song really remembers me of Beach Boys, which is kind of a cool thing, but it is not what I wasn’t expecting. It is not story told, but it kind of continues the story told on the last track. So I guess that these two track, of the entire album, are connected. That still doesn’t make a concept album. The song is short but is really enjoyable.

15th track: “Demon Days”: The song starts middle-chord where the last one ended. The song is still kind of ethereal, although the chaos is starting to shower above in the form of bad recording. The vocals are falsetto, proving the 2D can sing in basically everything. The sound gets a little reggae like, but not enough so that it would become unbearable, as it mix with Motown, strangely enough. Although it’s reggae Motown, it is still depressing in a kind of happy way. I can’t really explain how it works, is just something Gorillaz can really do: you are depressed, but you are inexplicably happy. The song ends with like a Enya ending, but not enough so as to make a disappointing ending.

So, how does it all hold up? Again, it’s a brilliant album, by a brilliant band, but it’s not a concept album. Although it was good to remind of an album that I forgotten as time went by, it was a really good trip to 2005 and it is NOT a concept album. You assholes on the internet get this straight: an concept album is when the songs of the album are around a common theme! This is just random music!

This is JotaKa, signing off.

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11 Responses to Album in Depth: Demon Days by Gorillaz

  1. As the ultimate experiment in manufactured image, the Gorillaz are a virtual, hop band. Car Parts Online

  2. Pingback: Album in Depth 05: Plastic Beach by Gorillaz | Jotaka's Studio

  3. Pingback: Album in Depth: The Fall by Gorillaz | Jotaka's Studio

  4. Cal says:

    Poorly written.

  5. Isacariot says:

    This article is so poorly composed that it nearly gave me herpes.

  6. luke says:

    sorry bro don’t think you know what a concept album. or you just can’t explain all your contradictions

  7. Stone says:

    This is the worst analysis of an album I’ve ever read. Many grammatical mistakes, arbitrary ripping on music that you don’t enjoy, and immaturity. If you think that rap is “just rhyming and complaining” then why would you bother analyzing an album that features a rapper on almost every song? And you obviously don’t understand what “concept album” means, because you never once mentioned anything about concepts in your break downs of the songs, just how annoyed you were with music. I severely hope your writing and critiquing has improved since you wrote this.

    • JotaKa says:

      Worst? Hyperboly much? But okay, I was hyperbolic doing this review.

      I reviewed this album because I enjoy Gorillaz. A lot. The rapping in the first album was really good, and if I recall correctly, in this one, not so much (except for some songs, true). I still think that rapping, in most part, is rhyming and complaining, but it is a booming genre, what can I do.

      And still, this is not a concept album. The songs don’t follow a single concept. If you give me a concept, I will check it out. Didn’t find one here.

      Thanks for the comment.

      • Awesome2D says:

        Demon Days is a concept album. Damon explained what the concept is: The album is a journey trough a night in which each tracks represents a confrontation with a personal “demon”. The intro is supposed to be the beginning of a very dark night, and the last two songs (Don’t Get lost in heaven and Demon Days) are supposed to represent very clearly the rise of the sun at the end of the journey (you can really hear this idea in Demon Days).

        According to “Gorillaz: Rise of the Orge” book
        The song Demon Days is The light at the end of the tunnel, the dawn after the longest night of the soul. Based around the same chords as ‘Don’t Get Lost in heaven” allowing the two songs to become one glorious crescendo, a real musical climax that guides the listener into a far more optimistic climate.

        So yeah, Demon Days IS a concept album

  8. Thomas says:

    Really poor critic. The girl who is singing in “All Alone” is Martina Topley Bird. You must verify what you are writing before publishing it.

    All the powerness of this wonderful album (my personal favorite one) is that all the songe are musically connected and are building a big block, but they are all different. As if all the diversity in Feel Good Inc. was represented in the whole album.

    Dirty Harry is also very diversified. All the ways of rapping are different. I won’t make the list of all that makes this album extraordinary and perfect, but I find that your point of view is really really poor.

    Excuse me for all the grammatical mistakes you may naturally found, but I’m a 15-year-old French boy.

    Damon Albarn, my idol.

  9. Zane says:

    I like dirty Harry 🖕

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