Damon Albarn has never been shy about confronting technology in his music. This is the man whose first solo album started with the line, “We are everyday robots on our phones” – and that was almost 10 years ago. On the eighth Gorillaz album, this feeling has reached its natural endpoint, with his cartoon band’s story being that they have started a cult in a hip area of LA (one of the toons is trying to impress the hot cult leader next door, obviously) and indoctrination all happens online.

The idea is to dissect online radicalisation. It’s a subject worth putting some thought into, and a cartoon band making loose, eclectic pop music is perhaps the right kind of artificial medium through which one can explore minds being warped by their online bubbles. On the title track, that bubble is a literal island “where the truth was auto-tuned” and the bounce of the music belies the “sadness I consumed into my formats every day”.

It gets a little more embarrassing elsewhere – Albarn sampling Siri on “The Tired Influencer” was sigh-inducing – but there is some quite beautiful music to blur the overused metaphors of human as machine. “Oil”, which features Stevie Nicks’ deep harmonies in a kind of stream-of-consciousness about the labyrinth of the mind, is a simple kind of song that breaks from minor-key doom into a bright and hopeful final act.

More on Album Reviews

For those of us who still think of Gorillaz as the happy-go-lucky soundtrack that ruled the early Noughties, there are flashes of fun to be found. As well as “Cracker Island”, there’s also the Tame Impala collaboration “New Gold”, which slinks into a funky strut while Albarn and Kevin Parker sing woozily about, presumably, the hell of Los Angeles. Albarn also provides thoughtful, chin-stroking vocals on the sad summer bop “Tormenta”, while Bad Bunny sings about a fleeting kind of love.

Though Gorillaz are consumed by a kind of online dystopia, this record actually sounds the least synthetic of their work to date: there’s a sort of organic breeze running through it and a feeling that although these topics are terrifying in the extreme, we’ve been lulled into a benzo-induced stupor about the whole thing. Cracker Island sounds more like the beginning of summer than the end of the world.

Songs to stream: “Oil”, “Tormenta”, “The Tired Influencer”

By admin