Gorillaz - Demon Days (a masterpiece of music)
The early noughties are regarded as some of the darkest times in recent memory. The aftermath of 9/11 led to the Iraq War and the news was covering things that only made us feel worse. In times like these, we turn to the arts, as a form of escapism. Some went to films, a lot went to video games and many more turned to music.
Gorillaz are a virtual band created by Blur’s frontman Damon Albarn and Tank Girl’s co-creator and artist Jamie Hewlett. Their self-titled debut was an experiment, a wildly popular one. Where music meets visuals in an incredible way, shifting the focus from Damon and Jamie to the four fictional band members, 2D, Murdoc, Russel and Noodle. The band are without question the most popular virtual band ever created. What makes this project so unique, other than the marriage of audio and visual, is the experimentation. The is no genre attached to Gorillaz. They’ve tackled everything from Folk Ballads to Hip-Hop to Electronic to Punk.
Enter ‘Demon Days’, their second album released in 2005. A complex and dark album with an eerily accurate description of the mood of the world at that time. I was 8 years old when Demon Days came out. It’s the first album I remember listening to repeatedly, maybe because they were an appealing cartoon band for someone my age. I was too young to know what the lyrics meant, I could just about sing the chorus to Feel Good Inc. I focused on the hip hop beats in Dirty Harry, the slow moments in El Mañana and the choir in Don’t Get Lost in Heaven. I watched the videos, laughed at how silly Murdoc was, and pieced together the story of the floating windmill.
Fast-forward seven years and I’m in a much stranger place. I’m not the kid I was when I first heard it. I was diagnosed with depression and I was in my darkest place. I started taking trips out, going to secluded places alone and all I’d take was my trusty iPod Classic and a pair of earphones. I’d sit at the riverside and listen to an album. The albums varied. Mumford and Sons, Ben Howard, one Saturday when I was at my little spot, Demon Days came up. Listening to this fictional world Damon created was almost sobering to me, to my depression. For the first time, I could draw comparisons between the Gorillaz universe and society in the mid-2000s, between the Gorillaz universe and my mind.
Demon Days tells a dark story. A story of a world in turmoil, yet capturing the mood and somehow elevates people higher from the experience. It feels like a sort of therapy – it talks to you about the state of things and gets you to think about it differently. Whether it be the story of El Mañana or the “Happy-folk” in Fire Coming Out of the Monkey’s Head.
There are times where this album is explicit in it's message. Like O Green World on the threat of global warming and how we don't care about our planet enough. Nothing is more explicit than Dirty Harry when Bootie Brown raps about George W Bush and the Iraq War "The war was over so said the speaker // with the flight suit on, maybe we're just a pawn // so he can advance remember when we used to dance // all I want to do is dance" Again, reflecting on better times, not being in them. The theme of escapism is clearest on DARE, the only feel good track on this album, with Shaun Ryder's hilarous guest appearance
Upon release, this album got ‘good’ reviews, it has an 82 on Metacritic. Yet, looking at it today, this album deserves more. Instead of facing terror with anger, we oppose it with love. When something bad happens to us, we’ve learnt to pick up the pieces, support each other and carry on. I guess what I’m trying to say is that we’re past the gloom of that time. This album is a time capsule. It captured the mood and told us through story. The mix of visuals and music aides this. Demon Days is timeless. To me, it’s the greatest album of the noughties. It helped me to overcome not only my own struggles, but to be more empathetic towards others. It’s thanks to not 2D, Murdoc, Russel and Noodle, but Damon and Jamie. Who want to play around with music but to also send a message and create a form of art that lasts through time while staying out of the spotlight to keep attention on the art itself.