MGF Reviews Gorillaz – D-Sides

Gorillaz – D-Sides
Virgin Records (11/20/07)
Alternative / Electronic / Hip-hop / Dub / Other

Already confirmed as the most successful virtual band since The Archies, Damon Albarn wasn’t content with his Gorillaz project primarily capitalizing on its gimmick element (see Crazy Frog, Insane Clown Posse) following the success of the self-titled 2001 debut album. He could have just reaped the financial benefits and quit, or followed up the critically acclaimed Gorillaz with a phoned-in effort, or sold out to Disney or something dastardly like that, but realizing that behind the cartoon facade he had damn good musical outfit, Albarn explored other creative possibilities.

After the debut, he collaborated with Spacemonkeyz to release the spectacular Laika Come Home, an album of dub remixes showing that Albarn must have grown up listening to Lee “Scratch” Perry and the Upsetters, as well as G-Sides, a lukewarm but commendable collection of rarities and remixes from the Gorillaz sessions. Though we’re still eagerly awaiting a similar dub rework of the group’s wildly successful 2005 follow-up, Demon Days, D-Sides contains a boatload of rarities from the Demon Days sessions, as well as some dub stuff to placate the fans of Laika Come Home.

The casio-rock “The Swagga”, previously available EXCLUSIVELY on the limited edition DVD-Audio release of Demon Days, is relatively dispensible, while “We Are Happy Landfill”, which was only available for the limited time on the group’s Web site, is a wonderful melding of garage and pop. For those of you who didn’t buy the singles from Demon Days, you’ll be rewarded here with B-sides “Spitting Out the Demons” (“Feel Good Inc.”), “Highway (Under Construction)” (“Dare”), Hongkongaton” and “Murdoc Is God” (both from “Dirty Harry”). The dark, electroclash of “68 State” (possibly a play on the name of yet another successful UK electro act) was only released on the original Japanese release of Demon Days, while the clunky electro-disco of “People” (a rough-draft track that would later become “Dare”) was only included on a Japanese re-release—both are fantastic.

More Electroclash goodness occurs later on “Rockit”, while “Hong Kong”, the song that Gorillaz recorded exclusively for the German-Slovenian film Warchild, had only been previously available as a live version (from Manchester Opera House) on various European, American and Japanese special re-release editions of Demon Days. It became a huge hit during concerts supporting the album, and is included on here as a studio version, with some extra string work, making it even more lush and atmospheric than the version from the movie.

And of course, the amiably titled “Bill Murray”, a collaboration with U.K. indie (please don’t shoot, Shawn!) outfit The Bees (better known in to American fans as A Band of Bees due to two different U.S. bands having the same name as well) is dub-a-delically awesome, and should be a good listen for fans of Laika Come Home. BUT WAIT… there’s yet another collaboration in the somber closer, “Stop the Dams” (likely to appear on the soundtrack of the next romantic indie film starring Zach Braff), as Einar Orn drops by to preach against the building of dams in rural Iceland. If bringing down the tempo at the end of the set was the intent of this track, mission accomplished… sort of. Remember, there’s a still a second disc.

Speaking of which, the 9-track second disc, which consists of all remixes, contains three reworks each of “Dare” and “Kids With Guns”. All are at the very least good, with the best being either the DFA remix or Junior Sanchez remix (as well it should be) of “Dare” (both will no doubt get a decent amount of play in hipster clubs around the world), and the most ho-hum would be the Jamie T’s Turns to Monsters Mx of “Kids With Guns”, which seems to try a bit too hard. Hot Chip’s remix of the same track would be much better if it didn’t take so damn long to pick up. The Stanton Warrior remix of “Feel Good Inc.” is straight-up electro. No, seriously… I’m talking Mantronix here. Break out your shell-tops and let’s go breakdancing. This was so funky fresh that I had to listen to it twice. And then the group dabbles in some world music, with the Metronomy remix of “El Mañana”, which could feasibly pass for either Latin techno or dub, and a wonderful Chinese folk version of “Dirty Harry”.

On D-Sides a chaos of musical pieces comes together betwixt two discs… and it is good. Very good. In fact, it’s friggin’ fantastic. Casual fans of Gorillaz (read: people who bought their albums after hearing their songs on the radio) might find a lot of this material going over their heads, but die-hards would be well-advised to pick this up, as it’s certainly one of the best collections of music to come out this year.

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