Gorillaz

Over the course of the last three months, I’ve seen Damon Albarn perform four times, and a certain quality of his career was boldly underlined: there are great disparities between who knows him, where they know him from, and where they know him from without realizing it. One of the obvious divides is nationality, but the crucial qualifier is age. For a British person in their early twenties, Britpop was ubiquitous as they were growing up — there’s no way you didn’t know who Blur was, even if they were already defunct by the time you were in your early teens and perhaps exploring music for the first time. For an American, it’s quite different. If you were an indie/alternative fan in ’90s America, Blur would’ve been this exotic safe haven if mainstream alt-rock wasn’t your thing, but if you’re the same age as those British kids who lived and breathed Britpop, chances are a lot of your friends might not know about Blur but are very, very familiar with the pop hits Gorillaz had through the ’00s. Of course, just because you might be familiar with “Feel Good Inc.” or “Clint Eastwood” doesn’t mean you know Albarn himself — part of the conceit of Gorillaz, originally, was that they were an invented cartoon band.

I spoke with fans at these shows who knew Albarn as “the guy from Blur, with that great new solo album,” but didn’t realize he’d also be playing “El Manana” that night. I spoke with fans who knew all of Albarn’s work and cheered for a comparative obscurity like the Good, The Bad, & The Queen’s “Kingdom Of Doom.” And then, when he and his band began one of Gorillaz’ hits, they elicited the most fervent crowd reactions of the night. Part of that could be attributed to those songs being much more fun in a live setting than the beautiful but understated Everyday Robots material, but part of it, I would imagine, is that some of these American festival-goers knew Albarn first and foremost from his work with Gorillaz.

Back in the ’90s, it would’ve been hard to imagine Albarn going in the direction of Gorillaz. And now, with Albarn leaving both Blur and Gorillaz in the past for the moment, that direction exposes one of the strangest career arcs in pop music. Blur is one of the bands that defined Britpop and, accordingly, were guitar-based and very, very British. Damon Albarn was a massive popstar. With Gorillaz, on the other hand, Albarn cloaked his popstar identity in projections created by Jamie Hewlett and proceeded to make music based on hip hop beats and synthesizers, drawing on anything he wanted, whether it was gospel or dub or rap. And instead of a disastrous attempt at reinvention, he succeeded wildly. Not only did he achieve a new and different kind of pop status here in the States, garnering a new and different generation of fans, but he also managed to open up his songwriting to previously unforeseen territory. I’m hard-pressed to think of another musician who has the sort of dual success stories as Albarn, or one who does and attained them in such disparate ways.

Because of Gorillaz, Albarn is still relevant. To return to an argument I’ve made before, the fascinating thing about the divide in Albarn’s career is that with Blur, he was at the forefront of one of the last gasps of what some consider a pre-digital monoculture. You know, back when guitar music could still rule the mainstream, back when there were more borders between genres and those who played within them. In Britain, that would’ve been Britpop, in America, grunge and mainstream alternative. (Some commenters on my profile of Albarn back in April argued that the early ’00s retro-rock represented the last universal guitar-based movement, and fair enough — that’s more universal than things are now, but I’d argue the fragmentation was already underway, and it can’t be talked about as the same sort of phenomenon that grunge or Britpop were.) The thing about Gorillaz is that it represented the exact opposite. It was a project perfectly designed for the grab-bag mentality of a generation coming up on the internet, iTunes, and a more free-for-all attitude about what to listen to. There’s a whole mess of sounds, styles, and voices on each Gorillaz record, and Albarn’s ability to collect them into a whole, to consume and hold it all in, is a learned ability of the internet era. It’s hard to imagine anyone else in the last, waning generations of rockstars being able to reorient themselves on such a fundamental level as artists, to be able to take the pulse of two entirely different eras and give something back that resonates so strongly for each.

Speaking as one of those Americans who found Albarn through Gorillaz and not Blur, this music was foundational. The self-titled Gorillaz debut was the first album I ever bought, and after later finding out it was “by that guy from that band who did the ’Woo-hoo!’ song” (i.e. “Song 2″ from 1997′s Blur), I found my way back to Britpop and to Blur, who became one of the most important bands in my life. But, perhaps even more importantly, Gorillaz were formative in the sense that I’m also one of those Americans who was learning to listen to music in an era of file-sharing. Their music, curated as it was, could be a sort of roadmap for someone like me, growing up listening to classic rock and grunge in small town Pennsylvania. When I think back on it, I’m pretty sure Gorillaz are one of the main reasons I started listening to rap, or to different kinds of electronic music.

Upon revisiting the Gorillaz catalog, I realized they’re very difficult to sum up for an artist with only three full-lengths (unless you count The Fall as a total stand-alone record, but to me it’s always been more of an epilogue). To a certain extent, this is a similar issue with Blur: you can focus a list around the pop standouts, the iconic ones, or you can easily find ten exceptional songs from Albarn’s sad, dreamy mode of songwriting as well. With Gorillaz, it becomes even murkier due to the panoply of voices and styles that flit in and out, that crash up against one or another or melt together. Perhaps this makes sense, given the significant amount of time the albums span — the 2000 and 2001 genesis of Gorillaz was a very different pop landscape than that of 2010, the one Plastic Beach entered — not just in the sense of the sounds Albarn was incorporating, but also that Albarn was now able to attract a lot more mainstream firepower with the Gorillaz moniker. With so many moving pieces jostling together, it’s a wonder each Gorillaz record comes together as strongly as it does, and it’s a testament to Albarn’s flexibility as an artist. He had already mastered the frontman gig, now becoming master at curation. The songs were always his, but it’s like he’s playing the role of architect with Gorillaz.

So, after much hand-wringing and deliberation and attempting to check biases from various points in my life, here are ten songs that represent the best of what Albarn had to offer with Gorillaz. Unlike with some of the other lists of this sort that I’ve done, there were two or three other versions that looked almost entirely different. There are a lot of other songs I love by Gorillaz. Let’s talk about it in the comments.

10. “Amarillo” (from The Fall, 2011)

“Amarillo” is the best song on The Fall, the album that Albarn composed on an iPad while touring America in support of Plastic Beach. The name refers to the season in which the tour occurred, but the whole thing also has this blurry vibe to it — much of it is inspired by the long, desolate stretches passing by Albarn’s tour bus window as he wove across the country. “Amarillo” has an end-of-the-world vibe about it, its melancholy the particular brand that might crop up when you’re standing in the desert in America, looking at a decrepit old motel. Somehow claustrophobic and diffuse at the same time, it’s also an entry in the line of gorgeously sad Albarn songs that find refuge in electronic overload; another of these is Blur’s “Battle.” There’s little that Albarn’s done in recent years that’s anywhere near as lush as the synth layers on “Amarillo.” It’s one of those songs that sounds great very loud on headphones while you’re out walking around someplace. Hiding in that instrumental thickness is one of Albarn’s best laconic/tragic deliveries — the way he sings “Put a little love / Into my lonely soul,” coupled with the music surrounding it, is a sleeper candidate amongst the best of Albarn’s morose moments. The commitment to sparser arrangements worked well for the storytelling nature of Everyday Robots, but I wouldn’t mind a whole album of Albarn getting introspective like this, either.

9. “Plastic Beach” (from Plastic Beach, 2010)

Plastic Beach sort of has two title tracks, the other being “Welcome To The Plastic Beach.” “Plastic Beach” arrives much later in the album, amidst the album’s frayed, sun-baked second half. Aside from being the title track, it’s also something of a sonic centerpiece for the record. All the fried synthetic sounds of Plastic Beach, all the themes of detritus, are audible in the song “Plastic Beach.” On one hand, it’s a blurry and disorienting experience — it’s got the same dreamily oscillating synths Albarn made use of on “Empire Ants” (more on which is below), but also one of the album’s most steadily funky rhythms. Throughout, vocals are warped or pitch-corrected into inhuman oblivion. It has the sound of a pop song that was left out in the sun too long and wound up malformed and melted but still infectious. Considering the fake pop band conceit of Gorillaz and the various images of destruction and apocalypse that are littered through their videos, “Plastic Beach” winds up being rather representative not only of this specific album but of Gorillaz as a project — the song itself is stray elements of pop detritus, mutated together to form something different.

8. “El Manana” (from Demon Days, 2005)

As mentioned above, there’s a whole subgenre of sad pop songs within Albarn’s canon. But where the pop songs of Blur or Gorillaz sound nothing alike, it’s material like this that could be culled from all periods of his career, and sure, they’d bear a little bit of their respective projects’ specific aesthetic, but they would also be the connective tissue through much of Albarn’s twists and turns as an artist. Take “El Manana” from Demon Days, which makes a lot of sense alongside “Kingdom Of Doom” or “Herculean” off The Good, The Bad, & The Queen, or next to Everyday Robots, or beside something off of Blur’s last two or three albums. Though it wasn’t a significant hit like “Feel Good Inc.” or “D.A.R.E.,” I seem to remember seeing the video for this song constantly on whichever music channel I was still watching back in ’05/’06. This is one of those Gorillaz songs that has one identity amongst its album and accompanied by its stylized video, but can stand alone as a personal and separate song. (Which is why it makes sense that it is one of the Gorillaz songs Albarn has incorporated into his recent solo sets.) Even from a career littered with haunting and heartbroken music, “El Manana” is a classic from Albarn’s more downbeat side.

7. “Empire Ants” (from Plastic Beach, 2010)

You know how every now and then you’re listening to a song that has some severe shift or emphatic rise, and you reach to turn up the volume because it feels like everything needs to be forcibly made just a bit bigger than the recording allows? What I’ve always loved about “Empire Ants” is that the necessary volume jump is built into the song. As Albarn’s mellow intro begins to cede to that synth-bass, you know something else entirely is about to crash in, and when all those synths do begin cascading, the song means it. To be honest, the first half of this song doesn’t floor me — it feels like an interlude, and functional, in the sense that the second half of “Empire Ants” has all its power because of what it rises out from. Once “Empire Ants” gets going, though, it’s one of the most gorgeous and infectious pieces of music Albarn’s ever recorded. And, notably, it’s a different sort of catharsis than he has used elsewhere in his career. Little Dragon’s voice and the dreamy synth progressions all echo out from some other place, and that’s why that volume spike is so crucial to this song. The pivot at the center of “Empire Ants” takes you to a completely different headspace. And, at least for me, the production moves here are so adept that it still manages to do that to me every time I hear the song, even when I’m listening to those first two minutes specifically waiting for the transition. It’s biological.

6. “Slow Country” (from Gorillaz, 2001)

“Slow Country” has always been one of my favorite Gorillaz songs. I suppose there are parts of it you could call dated, or lesser-realized than the Gorillaz work that would follow, but out of the material from Gorillaz, it’s one of the songs that’s aged the best, still feeling unique all these years later. For not entirely logical reasons, there are sounds here that remind me of one of those old Super Mario Bros. side-scrollers, of a particular piece of old videogame music lodged in the back of my memory. And I think that’s why this song lives on — it sounds like what you thought the future would sound like when you were a child. The nostalgia it evokes for me, and a prime laconic Albarn delivery, means I’ve never been able to pin down whether “Slow Country” is a sad or happy song, despite its catchiness and tempo. (This was, after all, from Albarn’s heroin period.) At any rate, Albarn’s been incorporating it into solo sets recently (a very welcome addition), and been playing it very much as one of the big pop moments in the set. He’s a master of that art form, the song that could be happy or sad depending on what you bring to it.

5. “On Melancholy Hill” (from Plastic Beach, 2010)

Speaking of Albarn songs where you can’t tell if they’re supposed to be happy or sad, the king of them all might be “On Melancholy Hill.” I mean, yeah, it says “melancholy” in the title, and has Albarn singing in his sad voice, but that lead synth line is so ear-worm-y, those background “ahh-ahhs” so warm and comforting, that this one’s always come off as being cheekily mistitled. Maybe “On Reverie Hill” would’ve sounded too confusing? “On Melancholy Hill” occupied a similar position on Plastic Beach as “El Manana” did on Demon Days, the more midtempo, restrained pop song to the hip hop verses or dance beats or funk of other singles like “D.A.R.E.” or “Stylo.” Though Albarn used synthesizers on Gorillaz records all the time, and especially prominently on Plastic Beach, “On Melancholy Hill” is a bit of an outlier. Albarn has rarely committed so fully to a synth-pop aesthetic — this is New Wave for daytime hours. It’s another mode of writing that I’d be interested in hearing him explore more down the line.

4. “Feel Good Inc.” (from Demon Days, 2005)

“Feel Good Inc.” might be the perfect example of everything that could’ve/should’ve gone wrong with Gorillaz instead working out really, really well. Even more so than “Clint Eastwood,” “Feel Good Inc.” takes an introspective, very classic-Albarn chorus with acoustic guitar and all, and crams it in between squiggly synths, prominent beats, rap verses from De La Soul, and one of the most memorable basslines of the last ten years. There are several things here that shouldn’t make any sense flowing into one another, and instead it became Gorillaz’ biggest single overall, and the one that got chosen for an Apple commercial. And yet even with all that exposure, it still sounds great — it might not hit on the same emotional level as Albarn’s more confessional songwriting, but it’s one of his best when it comes to pure, visceral enjoyment, and it still gets a huge response as soon as that indelible bassline echoes out from the stage. It’s one of the most iconic Gorillaz songs. And in terms of sheer pop songcraft and an ability to work within new idioms, it’s one of Albarn’s finest achievements.

3. “Tomorrow Comes Today” (from Gorillaz, 2001)

That bit I said about “El Manana” being one of the connective songs of Albarn’s career also applies to “Tomorrow Comes Today,” but two- or three-fold. This is probably one of the best and most important songs Albarn’s ever written in relation to his career, in the sense that it marks the transition. “Tomorrow Comes Today” began life as a Blur demo called “I Got Law.” It was the namesake for the lead Gorillaz EP in 2000. There’s latter-day Blur material that doesn’t sound wildly different from this, but it was also, of course, the template for the territory Albarn would more fully explore with Gorillaz. It’s also trippy, and depressive, and pretty all at the same time. The weird thing about it is that it’s so easy to contextualize like that, but it’s also so easy to hear it entirely removed from its context. Yeah, the trip-hop beat sounds very of its era, and yeah it was where Blur bled into Gorillaz (and, with Think Tank, where Gorillaz would bleed back into Blur). But if you were going to compile a greatest hits of Albarn’s whole career, this would be a crucial entry that stood on its own as a great, sad single. It functions as a hinge point, but is one of Albarn’s most perfect songs.

2. “Don’t Get Lost In Heaven”/”Demon Days” (from Demon Days, 2005)

Yes, technically, “Don’t Get Lost In Heaven” and “Demon Days” are two separate tracks on Demon Days. But these songs are inextricably linked — one cannot function without the other in the same way that the two halves of “Empire Ants” can’t stand alone. “Don’t Get Lost In Heaven” bleeds right into “Demon Days” on the record, and Albarn used to close with them when touring Plastic Beach. So, for the purposes of this article, I’m looking at it as a singular piece. And, looking at it as such, it’s another in a lineage of Albarn’s penchant for incredibly strong album closers. Of all the alternate universe, otherworldly sounds Albarn’s crafted in one form or another in his career, this pairing is at once more customary and totally unreal. There are the obvious gospel elements in both, but they’re tied together by the beginning of “Demon Days,” with Albarn’s voice buried and ghostly amongst the distortion and strings. Collectively, it sounds like space age soul. “Don’t Get Lost In Heaven” and “Demon Days” are the much deserved and much earned light at the end of all the gnarled, darkened elements of Demon Days. They remain amongst the most rewarding catharses Albarn has yet written.

1. “Clint Eastwood” (iTunes Session) (from iTunes Session, 2010)

For me, “Clint Eastwood” started it all. Gorillaz was the first album I bought because I heard this song. A friend played me the video, and without any real understanding of pop history or whatever this cartoon was in front of me, I simply thought — what the hell is this? It felt like the first thing of our own, the first thing we’d discovered, instead of having Zeppelin or whomever passed down from older friends or relatives. There were a few years there where I didn’t return to Gorillaz all that much, the period of time where I was deep into grunge and classic rock. And then after I’d been listening to Gorillaz for a while again, and after I’d discovered Blur — in 2010 Gorillaz did an iTunes session to promote Plastic Beach, and it had this absolute behemoth of a version of “Clint Eastwood,” and I found myself saying “What the hell is this?” all over again. The single itself is a classic, sure, but I’d argue this song comes into a newer, fuller, entirely more badass version in its live incarnation. That bass, the clanging piano, the swaggering stutter of the beat — everything just sounds like a beast live. I saw Gorillaz play it at Madison Square Garden back in 2010, but Bashy and Kano came out and did the verses and sort of made a mess of it. I was then lucky enough to see Albarn perform it with Del Tha Funky Homosapien for the first time ever this past March at SXSW. This version from the iTunes Session has Del’s original raps in place, just over the new muscle of the band’s live arrangement. This is the definitive version of “Clint Eastwood” in my mind. And, I always feel a little guilty saying this about an early single, especially when a project grows in the sort of rewarding and unforeseen directions that Gorillaz did — but I can’t picture a situation in which this isn’t still the definitive Gorillaz song, at least for me, or any American kid like me who had their whole world opened up by it.

Comments (72)
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  2. I’ve always been fond of the 1-2 punch of “Oh Green World” and “Dirty Harry”

    What I’ll always remember about seeing Gorillaz live was seeing how much fun Albarn seemed to be having on stage.

    As you mentioned, the sheer variety of great music he’s put out is astounding.

    • Agreed, love both of those songs and especially the synth parts in “Dirty Harry.” Ultimately, way too many Demon Days songs were vying for this list at some point or another. Even stuff from D-Sides—I’ve always loved “We Are Happy Landfill” and “Stop the Dams.”

  3. pretty solid

    • dirty harry, 19-2000, dare, rhinestone eyes, stop the dams, hong kong deserve consideration too. im glad you included amarillo.

      also remember that song with MF doom? too much to choose from

  4. I’m not sure I’d put a song from The Fall in a Top 10 Gorillaz songs list, but “Amarillo” is one of the betters ones from that release.

    I’m biased towards “19-2000″ (Soulchild Remix) because it’s just so incredibly blissful. My top 10, in no particular order:

    “19-2000″ (Soulchild Remix), “Clint Eastwood”, “DARE”, “Dirty Harry”, “El Mañana”, “Empire Ants”, “Feel Good Inc.”, “Kids with Guns”, “Rhinestone Eyes” + “Slow Country”

    • Yeah I certainly listened to “19-2000 (Souldchild Remix)” almost as much “Clint Eastwood,” and I’m a big fan of “DARE” as well, I just wanted to write about some deeper cuts, too. But those were both in consideration and easy candidates for a list like this.

  5. “The self-titled Gorillaz debut was the first album I ever bought”

    This makes me feel very old indeed.

    • Either you never opted to buy any albums before that, or you are very young. I remember being in college and running downstairs (we had classes in the Merchandise Mart in downtown Chicago) to the Sam Goody or some lame overpriced shop to buy it immediately.

  6. Great article Ryan. I was one of those listeners in the early ’00s who learned about Damon Albarn through Gorillaz. I was a die-hard fan of this cartoon band, and my fandom was probably due to the style of music that so few bands were replicating at the time, and of course, Jamie Hewlett’s animated characters.

    I’m really glad you mentioned that whole file-sharing trend that was happening at the time. Although I was not file-sharing at the time, I did have a very eclectic taste in music ranging from Bubble Gum pop to Metal (yes, I was a weird teenager). I felt Gorillaz filled a void for me musically with their eclecticism – the different musicians and styles they welcomed within their group.

    Albarn got this project right with the up and coming music consumers at the time, and that’s why Gorillaz did so well.

    • Interesting to note, my fandom to the Gorillaz started out because of the characters and animation, being that I was an artist and animation student in college at the time of their arrival, and their music really grew on me and opened up my eyes to the possibilities OF music. Still my favorite band to this day.

  7. Last Living Souls….just saying…

  8. Funny when you meet people at American music festivals and they’re like “Who the fuck is Damon Albarn?” Response: “You know Gorrilaz, Blur – Song 2″. They get that “Oh yeah!” moment. Pretty amusing. Talented guy.

  9. You know November has come, it’s come and gone away

  10. here’s what I think made the Strokes/Stripes scene more universal/generation-defining/etc. than Britpop: if you were an American teen during Britpop, did you care about it? Unlikely – at most you heard a couple Oasis songs and maybe a Blur one. But the Strokes/Stripes movement was global.

  11. cbishop  |   Posted on Jul 2nd +16

    I always had a soft spot for “Superfast Jellyfish”.

  12. Sound Check (Gravity). C’mon.

  13. Personal favorites of mine are Swagga, Bill Murray and Doncamatic. Nice to see Tomorrow Comes Today. Which I would list as my #1.

    • Oh yeah man, “Doncamatic” is a KILLER tune. It’s a shame it was relegated to just a one-off single. It would be in my top ten for sure.

  14. “Hong Kong” should be a top 5 choice. The live version from the Demon Days tour is pretty ethereal.

  15. needs less plastic beach and more demon days

  16. O Green World

  17. Kids With Guns.

  18. I might throw On Melancholy Hill up a little higher but we’ll just agree that every Gorillaz song is good and call it a day.

  19. The euphoric feeling I get when listening “To Binge” has always placed that song highly for me. I feel like I’m floating on a cloud as Albarn and Nagano propel me over an ocean toward the setting sun.

  20. I’m so glad you included “Demon Days” as part of “Don’t Get Lost in Heaven” and placed them at number two. Those tracks have always felt utterly perfect…heavenly, even.

  21. Your decision to put the last two tracks of “Demon Days” at the #2 spot is completely warranted. Hell, I’d even throw in Dennis Hopper’s (RIP) spoken word bit and count the whole thing as a closing trilogy. That ending is what cemented “Demon Days” as one of my favorite records.

    This had to of been a difficult undertaking. I agree you could have shifted more Demon Days instead of Plastic Beach, but including two songs as one at the #2 spot sort of balances it out I think.

    Mad props for including “El Manana” and “Slow Country” too. Those are good deep cut choices. I’ll quickly go through my personal favorites:

    “All Alone” — I’ve always championed this song. Balances all the great things about Gorillaz. You got a great guest verse from Roots Manuva, followed by Martina’s gorgeous singing. Culminating with the lyric, “When the morning comes, it doesn’t seem to say awful lot to meeee…” then the beat comes back in and I get this overwhelming feeling of euphoria every time. Such a highlight.

    “Sound Check (Gravity)” — What a creeper of a song. It begins so unassuming, a nice acoustic strum with Damon floating above it. His voice is so crucial to making that break work. The scratching over that low-end is such a memorable moment. It sequencing into “Double Bass” and “Rock The House” makes that “chunk” my favorite part on self-titled.

    The A-side to “Demon Days” definitely deserved at least one song on the list. Otherwise, “Clint Eastwood” is definitely the best Gorillaz song, so I’m cool with this list. Good work!

    • Yes, great call on the split “don’t get lost/demon days” – I forgot how much I enjoyed those last 2 tracks until I read this. Rivals grizzly bear’s Gun shy/half gate/sun in your eyes for favourite contemporary record finales.

      Demon Days is one hell of an album, and it’s one that has increasingly grown on me with time. I am continually astounded by Albarn’s discography. It’s so easy to forget that he is an absolute POWERHOUSE of music. You can’t name a contemporary artist with a stronger/longer/harder dickography (other than soulja obviously).

  22. SUPERFAST JELLYFISH

  23. Too much to choose from!

  24. Every Planet We Reach is Dead is one of Mr Albarn’s finest moments never mind a Gorillaz one but glad you included the 2 tracks form the Demon Day Trilogy as it is in Gorillaz Live on the Moon http://themoonfromsyb.blogspot.com/2014/02/gorillaz-live-on-moon.html It is is like his very own Bohemian Rapsody. Also on the Moon find a lost imaginary soundtrack from Blur.

  25. Gelth  |   Posted on Jul 2nd +3

    DARE

  26. I thought I could come up with a top 10, but that was really hard, and I’m not even sure if I’d choose the same ten if I had to try again tomorrow. anyhow, in no particular order -
    Clint Eastwood, Feel Good Inc., DARE, Superfast Jellyfish, White Flag, November Has Come, All Alone, Dirty Harry, El Manana, Empire Ants.

    Other special favorites of mine:
    “Latin Simone” (the English version from G Sides) – I haven’t heard the original version with Ibrahim Ferrer in ages, but I’ve always loved Albarn’s vocal delivery on the sung English version. Stunning.
    “Doncamatic” – Such a KILLER tune, honestly. Should’ve been on Plastic Beach (and released as lead single) instead of Stylo IMO
    “DoYaThing” – If I recall correctly this didn’t get the best reviews, but I LOVE this track. Andre kills on this, and it’s just so fun

  27. I preemptively wrote my own list. My list shares 4 tracks with this one. DoYaThing/Some Kind of Nature/November Has Come/Dirty Harry/El Manana/Clint Eastwood/Don’t Get Lost In Heaven and Demon Days/Every Planet we Reach is Dead/On Meloncholy Hill/19-2000 (Soulchild remix). :p After I wrote it though I decided that I unfairly left Feel Good Inc. off for being overplayed or something, in reality it is really fantastic, and the reason I even got into Gorillaz.

  28. Good list (definitely appreciate the Slow Country shout out), but a bit lacking in Demon Days for me. I really consider that album a pop masterpiece and one of the best of the 2000s. Not to knock the rest of the album in any way, but that “Dirty Harry” – “All Alone” run is *flawless*.

    My top ten in chronological order:

    1. Tomorrow Comes Today
    2. Clint Eastwood
    3. Sound Check (Gravity)
    4. Dirty Harry
    5. Feel Good Inc.
    6. El Mañana
    7. Every Planet We Reach Is Dead
    8. November Has Come
    9. All Alone
    10. Rhinestone Eyes

    Honorable mentions to Latin Simone and Slow Country.

    • Interesting that everyone wants to see more Demon Days here. I had a version of this list that was about 70% Demon Days and/or D-Sides (“Stop the Dams” very nearly made it), but figured it was better to choose a more balanced selection of my favorites, and that people wouldn’t have liked a top 10 comprised heavily of material from one album. Demon Days is a classic, though, and even though the self-titled was the starting point, Demon Days was where I really, really got into Albarn’s work. So I agree with everyone here—if someone else had written this list, I’d be happy to see “Last Living Souls,” “Kids With Guns,” “O Green World,” “Dirty Harry,” “Every Planet We Reach Is Dead,” or “DARE” represented, for sure.

      • The thing is, Demon Days is always mentioned because it’s the favorite, and for good reason. But I’m gonna defend Plastic Beach as one hell of an album. I honestly think it’s every bit as good as DD.

      • Yeah, I’m sure you other people would’ve complained about a list like that too, but people complain no matter what. I agree that Gorillaz was the starting point and it’s a great album, but in comparison to Demon Days, a lot of it just seems so underdeveloped. I think you hit on some of that with the “Slow Country” write-up. It kind of seems just like that song is just a couple of good ideas thrown together but damn if that synth line isn’t a killer. On the other hand (as you can see in my list), Plastic Beach just hasn’t clicked with me. Like I can appreciate that, for example, “On Melancholy Hill” is a good pop song, but something about it just doesn’t do it for me in the way that the songs on Demon Days do.

        P.S. Thank you for introducing me to that iTunes Session — that fuzz bass on “Clint Eastwood” adds such a raw element to an already great track.

  29. RE: “On Melancholy Hill” – to your point about not being sure whether it’s happy or sad, I’ll paint a picture for you. I was listening to the song on a hammock by the lake at summer camp as a counselor a few years back now, waiting for the girl I was with to meet me for a few hours at night. I was really excited to see her again, obviously, as this was the start of something new, but also in the back of my mind I was worried it would end when the summer did or shortly thereafter (which it kind of did). So that experience fits the song for me, and in essence my answer would be a tinge of both.

    • So with you. I’d listen to “On Melancholy Hill” while studying abroad in London, in the middle of the night after a bottle of wine, standing on a busy street corner watching cabs and people pass by and knowing that my sad, beautiful adventure would come to an end. For me, the song encapsulates the grace and gratitude inherent one feels with a significant experience.

  30. I think I was in 5th grade when I illegally downloaded Demon Days, and that album, along with Late Registration, Young Liars, and Guero, pretty much made up my entire middle school musical tastes.

    But I feel that most of Gorillaz’ music sounds dreadfully dated, especially the self-titled. I can still listen to Tomorrow Comes Today and 5/4 and enjoy them, but songs like Clint Eastwood and 19/2000 beam you back to the past, and not in a nostalgic way, but more of a “oh my god, I legitimately thought this was cool” way. That music is cheesy. It was cheesy then, too. But we loved it.

    It’s a little less noticeable on Demon Days, as I can still bring myself to listen to it all the way through. Songs like Last Living Souls, Dirty Harry, O Green World, Don’t Get Lost in Heaven, and yes, even Feel Good Inc. (which really should be on this list, I believe), still hit me today like they did when I was caught in the throws of puberty.

    Plastic Beach is whatever.

    (Fun fact — Demon Days was also the record that informed me that new albums were still being pressed on vinyl, and it was a total freakout for me. My friend Andrew’s stepdad was a DJ and had a copy of Demon Days on vinyl, and he brought it to school one day and we were all gushing)

  31. anybody think that the rap part in Clint Eastwood sounds like the Rap of Space Jam?

  32. To Binge, perhaps?

  33. No “Dare”, “19-2000″, “Dirty Harry”, or “Do Ya Thing”?

  34. Cloud of Unknowing is probably my personal favorite, Womack’s vocals and the way the whole thing just blows up beautifully make the whole thing for me.

  35. “DARE” is the only egregious omission, otherwise this list is pretty on target. I’m going to give a shout-out to “5/4″ as well, because it’s a brilliant way to construct a song.

  36. ferns  |   Posted on Jul 2nd +1

    M1-A1, Gravity, and Starshine (I think that’s what it’s called). The “Gorillaz” album was the shit.

  37. I started to make my own top 10 list of Gorillaz songs and quickly realized I couldn’t. Too many favorite children to choose from. What’s cool about your list is I would have probably only included 2-3 of your selections and yet I don’t have any qualms with it. Fun Fact: I’m getting the lyrics “I lost my leg, like I lost my way…” tattooed on the massive scar on my leg left from breaking it cliff diving the summer after graduating high school.

  38. I’m glad to see Empire Ants on here.

  39. skow  |   Posted on Jul 3rd 0

    get da coo, get da coo shooes shined!

  40. Does nobody else love Stylo? Maybe it’s just me, but that would be in my Top 3.

  41. Hard to buy into a list that excludes “19-2000″ and “Dare”.

  42. im tempted to say STYLO bc im sad about womacks death.

  43. Wow this list is identical to mine. I would just replace “Amarillo” with “Broken” and Clint Eastwood is def not number one.

  44. am I the only one into Dracula?

    Sound Check (Gravity) is missing too

  45. “19-2000 (Soulchild Remix)” and “White Flag” are both missing and that is seriously disturbing me. :(

  46. Great list. There’s a lot of tough choices to be made, but Leas handled them pretty well, I think. Anyway, off to go listen to the Gorillaz for all of today…

  47. I’m just baffled that we’ve made it through a whole article with THREE songs from the first album included and an entire comment section and no one has mentioned Dan the fuckin Automator!

  48. I think “To Binge” is one of the prettiest songs ever written, but that might just be me.

  49. Am I the only one who loves Broken? Other faves would be Last Living Souls, To Binge and Feel Good Inc. I dig Albarn’s shit, but I find his albums uneven.

  50. My personal top ten would be the first album and Feel Good Inc. I feel like the magic really wasn’t the same after the first album, though.

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