Album Review: Gorillaz – Cracker Island2 min read
Acts like Gorillaz need no introduction. The artificial band, helmed by musician Damon Albarn and artist Jamie Hewlett, formed in the late 90s as an experiment. Their presence in the music industry, as well as their chart invading songs and intriguing live performances, rocketed them into becoming one of the most influential and innovate groups of the 2000s, despite being, essentially, fictitious. After a slight hiatus for the majority of the 2010’s, Albarn and Hewlett returned in 2017, and have released a string of albums, the latest being this years Cracker Island.
Opener and title track Cracker Island fizzes with brash synths. Thundercat’s call and response vocals and bass lines add a funk layer to the hypnotic beat, showcasing the album as it means to go on. Following track Oil featuring Fleetwood Mac legend Stevie Nicks is a somewhat lowkey affair as far as Gorillaz are concerned, but Albarn and Nicks’ voices meld together wonderfully. The Tired Influencer has a reggae flare, the beat bouncing around samples of talking, and synths mimicking slide guitars and shimmering keys. Silent Running comes across as the most pop-centric track on the album, Albarn bringing us his own version of the 80’s tinged mainstream songs that have graced the charts in recent years. The singalong chorus and backing from Adeleye Omotayo bring together a cohesive, catchy pop banger.
The final half of the album varies drastically in style. Regatone flavoured Tormenta with Bad Bunny feels more like a track that Gorillaz has jumped on rather than created, while closer Possession Island with Beck takes things back to basics with acoustic guitars and pianos. Both Beck and Albarn’s voices intertwine, and it ends the album on an unexpectedly sentimental note. The Mariachi inspired latter half becomes one final twist in the tracklist, before the final chord is played, and the hands are audibly lifted from the piano.
Cracker Island is Gorillaz on fine form. More considered and consistent than their last full LP, whist also being the most toned down in places, it is the pop album that Damon set out to create this time around. It retains the semi-political and socially charged lyricism, but delivers it in a more mainstream way, and that is something to be commended.
Writer and Musician, Ryan Bulbeck has been published with a number of online publications, and has worked with a myriad of great artists, both as a performer, and as a producer. His most recent band The 295 are still active, playing shows around the UK.