Tuesday, May 31, 2005

While the Gallagher Brothers predictably ape the rock cliches of their elders, Damon Albarn's Gorillaz goes bananas.

Russell, 2D, Noodles, and Murdoc "Feel Good Inc." about their new record.

On August 14th, 1995, Oasis and Blur, the two biggest bands in England (that week), put their money where their cockneyed mouths were. Both groups, famous for both their dramatic rivalry and their distinctly British music, Britpop, found it necessary to prove which was the more popular band. The marketing forces behind Blur and Oasis decided to release a first single from their respective upcoming albums on the same day and let the public chose. Whoever debuted on the charts at #1 would be crowned England's favorite sons.

Unfortunately, Oasis chose "Roll With It" from What's the Story Morning Glory?, undeniably the weakest single from this hit-heavy record, while Blur picked The Great Escape’s "Country House,” a playful, catchy song that carried along the semi-political message about excess. Granted ...Morning Glory would go on to sell more records than The Great Escape but ultimately, the better song, Blur's "Country House" premiered on the pop charts right above "Roll With It."
This victory would go on to haunt the Gallagher Brothers--Noel and Liam--for the rest of their careers. Never would Oasis experiment with their sound and risk offending fans, gambling with the top of the charts--the #1 slot was/is too precious to them.
On the other hand, Damon Albarn, lead singer of Blur, would go on and reinvent himself from album to album. In the last half-decade, Albarn's output screamed of creative restlessness, displaying his admirable been-there-done-that eclectic thirst.
While Oasis sang about looking back in anger, it seems that Albarn has decided not to look back at all.


Sounds like a bad idea, right? Create a fictional band of musical gorillas, animate them as a cartoon and then record that fictional band's album with a rotating cast of musicians including De La Soul, Neneh Cherry, MF Doom, Del tha Funkee Homosapien, and Dennis Hopper. You need to give credit to Albarn for not only doing this successfully once (with the self-titled debut), but for producing a sequel that comes close to impressive. Combining the genres of trip-hop, rap, funk, punk, dance and pop, the Gorillaz's second album Demon Days is an admirable and interesting mess. The record, led by the hit "Feel Good, Inc." (currently being used by Apple for their new iPod commercial), is a spastic, danceable soundtrack for people who both liked the concept of Josie & the Pussycats and also use words like "zombie" and "doomsday" while discussing politics. Albarn's side project revels in the dark side of the force but never loses its sense of humor (a cartoon band of gorillas discussing the dangers of a loaded weapon in the household, anyone?).

Having a sense of humor is something the Gallagher Brothers would know very little about. Don't Believe the Truth, their sixth record of laughable re-creations of yesteryear's hits, doesn't warrant all the fanfare behind their big comeback (by the way, didn't they release an album just a few years ago?). After listening to this sub-decent record, I can only wonder when these songs were actually written; are they leftovers from the Definitely Maybe sessions? There hasn't been an ounce of change in the Oasis aesthetic since 1993. This kind of stagnancy is baffling.

Furthermore, at this point, the cliché lyrics ("...I'm at the crossroads waiting for a sign/My life is standing still, but I'm still alive") and nasal-heavy vocals of Don't Believe... are plainly irritating. Will Lou Reed please file a suit against Oasis for the royalties to "Mucky Fingers" (And my God! Why would anyone let Noel sing? His vocals on "Mucky Fingers" make me want to break out into a homicidal rage)? Where are Mick Jagger's writing credits for 'Lyla," a track that comes so close to the Rolling Stones' "Street Fighter Man" that it should have been listed as a cover? Oasis focuses on giving their fans exactly what they want, half-heartedly supplying the demand. In fact, this testament to laziness sounds like there was barely any effort involved in creating Don't Believe... (I mean, when was the last time you broke a sweat over using a photo copy machine?). Perhaps we need to accept that the Beatles-redux shtick was great for two albums (Definitely Maybe and What's The Story Morning Glory?) or maybe we should make peace with the fact that Oasis had two great album in them (and a handful of singles), declare the load blown, and then move on to another band that is at least trying to hold our attention. And a band like Albarn's Gorillaz does just that. While not a classic, astounding album, Demon Days entertains the listener. It's experimental without being off-putting. Fun and silly without being ridiculous. It's no wonder wall of sound but it is another victory, thus leaving the score at Albarn-2, Gallaghers-0.


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