Here’s a clip of meta rock ‘n’ hip-hop band Gorillaz with a cut off of their 2001 debut record Gorillaz. The ‘band’ is actually a project conceived by Damon Albarn of Blur, animator Jamie Hewlett (creator of the alternative comic Tank Girl among others), hip hop producer Dan the Automator, and other high-profile guests.
By 2001, Blur was on it’s last legs with guitarist and co-founder Graham Coxon having left to focus on his solo career, and leaving singer Damon Albarn to complete their most recent album Think Tank largely on his own. But, I suppose Albarn too must have had itchy feet creatively speaking. Because how different is Gorillaz from Blur? How different is this project from any project?
Jamie Hewlett’s artwork is distinctive, edgy, and perfect for the music video medium. Although it was a bold move to create a virtual band, maybe it’s not such a surprise that it was such a success in an age where multimedia is so vital to the success of a musical act, real or drawn. And not only did the album get a nomination for the British Mercury Prize in 2001(later withdrawn by request of Albarn and Hewlett), the ‘band’ got into the Guinness World Book of Records for most successful virtual band, with the debut record selling seven million copies worldwide. Their second record, Demon Days, came out in 2005 to enjoy equal success.
Hewlett and Albarn had been flatmates – they shared an apartment in the late 90s. In discussing the subject of vapid music videos and the reliance of banal images to sell music through that medium, the two decided that they should try and make a comment on the state of the music video by creating something which satrizes it. So, “Russell”, “Noodle”, “2D”, and “Murdoc” were born, even if the performances in the studio came from Albarn and a number of guest artists which have included Danger Mouse, Neneh Cherry, Ike Turner, De La Soul, Shaun Ryder, and actor Dennis Hopper among many others.
For more information and tuneage, check out the Gorillaz website which gives backstories on each “band member”, and includes interactive materials relating to the project. There are, evidently, plans for a third Gorillaz record in 2009.