Gorillaz hits rock bottom with ‘Cracker Island’

On March 26, 2001, alternative rock band Gorillaz came onto the scene with their self-titled debut album ‘Gorillaz’. Their catchy blend of rock and hip-hop influences as well as the creative spin of being a ‘virtual band’ consisting of four fictional characters that are backed by the vocals and instrumentation of only one man (Damon Albarn of ‘Blur’ fame), took the alternative rock world by storm. With the following releases of ‘Demon Days’ in 2005 and ‘Plastic Beach’ in 2010, they would strengthen their hold with hits like ‘Clint Eastwood’ and ‘Feel Good Inc.’ ringing in the ears of millions of listeners worldwide. In the anatomy of these fan favorites was a unique and artistic style that Gorillaz brought to the table. That is why, nearly 22 years departed from the release of their debut album, it is gut-wrenching to see that creative spark completely eroded with their latest release Cracker Island

Sacrificing the genre-mashing and innovative sound that had prior cemented their status in music, Gorillaz instead delivers a bland synth-pop sound that goes down easy but is flavorless. 

The title track and lead single, Cracker Island, is an imperfect but serviceable introduction to the album. Its vibrant instrumental is laced with a funk groove thanks to contributions from Thundercat, but Damon Albarn’s vocals are a mismatch and an annoying set of background vocals stunt the track from its full potential. 

Following the intro track is Oil, a temporary high note of Cracker Island. It is smooth and simple on the ears but sports an infectious melody and an excellent guest spot from a 74-year-old Stevie Nicks, vocalist of influential 70s pop-rock band Fleetwood Mac.

Unfortunately, any momentum garnered from Cracker Island’s solid intro track and even better follow-up come to a screeching halt with The Tired Influencer and Silent Running. The two tracks feature bland synth-pop instrumentals with cheesy vocal delivery. Throughout the rest of the album with forgettable tracks like Baby Queen, Tarantula, and Skinny Ape, Albarn rinses and repeats this style throughout Cracker Island with little variation or flavor added to the formula even at a short length of 10 tracks. 

Gorillaz have resorted to the most inoffensive, squeaky clean, and indistinguishable music possible, and for a band once as innovative as Gorillaz, that is rock bottom.

Gorillaz have resorted to the most inoffensive, squeaky clean, and indistinguishable music possible, and for a band once as innovative as Gorillaz, that is rock bottom.

After an almost immediate burn-out, Cracker Island spends the rest of its 37 minute runtime showing occasional glimmers of quality. New Gold is one of the album’s more memorable moments with electric production and high-strung vocals from Tame Impala. Tormenta featuring Bad Bunny isn’t quite a fresh spin on the reggaeton wave but is undeniably catchy and a breath of fresh air on an otherwise singular album with a groove tropical beat and great vocals from both Albarn and Bad Bunny.

But with a weak ending of Possession Island featuring Beck, Cracker Island fails to leave any significant footprint. Even the tracks I enjoyed in the moment don’t truly resonate with me, but rather just go through one ear and out the other. 

Gorillaz was once sharp but now they are dull. The highs of Demon Days and Plastic Beach are long gone. Even a return to the quality of their 2017 album Humanz feels like wishful thinking. It is time to hang up the boots Damon Albarn.