Gorillaz new album Cracker Island sees Damon Albarn and Jamie Hewlett return with Stevie Nicks, Bad Bunny, beck, Tame Impala and Bootie Brown

Gorillaz’s Cracker Island: Cult Status

On Gorillaz’s new record Cracker Island, the gang have joined a cult… or so says founder Damon Albarn, as each album always takes a new twist on the core concept of Gorillaz – a manufactured band for the end of the world.

Themes of misinformation and half-truths, false riches and environmental apocalypse form the album’s backbone. But despite the heavy themes, it’s perhaps their most poppy with a heady mix of hedonistic fun, melancholy and undeniable grooves while still offering moments of bizarre, with his many contributors.

In interviews, Albarn seems genuinely surprised to have worked with some of the musicians he has; Snoop Dogg, Grace Jones, Bobby Womack (an entire album) and De La Soul. Nowadays however, 25 years on from Gorillaz’s debut, not to mention his years with Blur, when Albarn calls, you answer. And so this album, as with their past, is a real mix bag of guests; from Tame Impala to Stevie Nicks, and Albarn always knows how to use them in new exciting ways, or simply put their iconic vibe through a Gorillaz wash.

The eponymous opener features LA bass master Thundercat and gets the head bobbing immediately amid his deep groove and Albarn’s falcetto.

Momentum keeps the party going as ‘Cracker Island’ is hotly followed by ‘Oil’, a four to the floor slinky beat featuring Fleetwood Mac’s Stevie Nicks. Her iconic, husky tones immerse us straight into a dizzy, shimmering 70s disco.

From a classic rock queen like Stevie to the most hyped rapper in the world right now, latin MC Bad Bunny, ‘Tormenta’ is a slow burn salsa. It melds perfectly into ‘Skinny Ape’ where Albarn’s drifting melancholy plays amid fuzzy lo-fi before building to a 8-bit punk riff, fist-pumping, carefree and glorious – ‘don’t be sad for me, I’m a Skinny little ape’ .

Elsewhere, Albarn team with Australia’s own psyche-funk prince, Kevin Parker of Tame Impala for a fun dancefloor filler ‘New Gold’. The track, which we’ve been privy to for a while on radio and streaming, also features The Pharcyde’s Bootie Brown, a past collaborator, who punters saw at the Gorillaz’s awesome Aussie shows over winter ’22.

Similarly, Beck returns to the Gorillaz’ roster after 2020’s ‘The Valley of The Pagans’. However, where ‘Pagans’ was upbeat, on ‘Possession Island’, the pairs’ downbeat baritones are almost indecipherable from each other.

‘Silent Running’ is a dreamy synth-pop number featuring long-time bandmember Adeleye Omotayo on vocals, and a wandering whistle. According to NME, animated frontman 2D said of his inspiration for the track, “Sometimes I get well lost and end up in the wrong place but then it turns out that’s where I was meant be going anyway.”

A rift between Albarn and Gorillaz’s artist Jamie Hewlett saw the outfit take a hiatus through the first half of the last decade. Apparently Hewlett felt his role in the band becoming minimised. Since burying the hatchet, they’ve been keeping busy with four albums in six years. Thankfully, the well hasn’t run dry – there’s no shortage of inspiration or artistry on Cracker Island, continuing the myth and magic of Gorillaz. Let’s all join a cult!

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