Archive for April 2009
The Gorillaz have always been a band shrouded by a degree of mystery.
Hiding behind their animated alter egos, Blur front man Damon Albarn and Tank Girl creator Jamie Hewlett have been left their own devices to create some of the most innovative progressive music projects out there today.
However, a new film called Bananaz provides a fascinating behind the scenes look at the making of the Gorillaz over the better part of the past decade.
Rumors of this film have persisted for years; however it was finally released on Babelgum.com, a website that airs the documentary for free.
Over the course of the hour and a half film Director Ceri Levy follows the duo from its inception through its rise to the top of the industry and completion of its second album Demon Days, a period of seven years.
The film is truly fascinating for any Gorillaz fan, as it provides never before behind the scenes views of Albarn recording and Hewlett drawing the now famous characters.
Levy follows the rise of the band showing its most intimate moments from signing the Gorillaz contract with EMI, a far different experience than how the Gorillaz biography The Rise of the Ogre depicts it, to recording their first album in what appears to Albarn’s home studio.
Perhaps one of the most intriguing aspects of the film is watching the artists struggle with the concept of an animated band and when to be in character and when to be themselves. Managing the parallel worlds was a complex matter. After one of their first interviews, Albarn rants how Americans just don’t get it telling Hewlett that Americans like things explained to them.
Aside from Albarn’s frustration with America, the duos anti-pop sentiments are present through the film as they constantly make fun of pop icons like Justin Timberlake and MTV. At the same time the band makes two appearances at the MTV Awards showing they must secretly want the mainstream s approval. Hewlett rants against NME magazine at one point saying he doesn’t even want his art on the magazine’s cover.
It’s unclear how serious the two are at any given moment because they joke around quite a bit. Its clear Albarn and Hewlett’s dynamic bring out the best in each other.
Aside from the intriguing look inside the psyche of the minds behind the Gorillaz, the musical aspect is spectacular. There is an entire treasure chest of footage here showing the recording of the two albums and music videos.
Albarn plays the bass, piano, keyboard, flute and everything in between in the film that also features collaborators Del La Soul, D12, Dangermouse, Ibrahim Ferrer, Bootie Brown, Simon Tong and Dennis Hopper.
This is by far the most comprehensive look at the Gorillaz creators to date. It is filled with fascinating facts such as “Dirty Harry” came from an unfinished album called Demo Crazy that Albarn made on his last tour with Blur.
The album ends with the Gorillaz show at the Apollo, completing a compelling journey from the bands modest beginnings of two-dimensional drawings to the top of the music industry with some of the most advanced shows and images used by a band to date.
One overarching theme Albarn makes clear throughout the seven years is that he only cares about the music and everything else doesn’t matter, which is why the Gorillaz have been able to span such an expansive musical soundscape.
Perhaps the only fault of the film is there is a sense that it could be at least an hour longer as there are clearly things that happen off camera. Throughout the film the duo appear to accumulate injuries as they have bandages on their faces. And by the end of the film it looks as if Albarn has lost a tooth.
This is a must see for any Gorillaz fan.
Watch the film now at http://www.babelgum.com/gorillazgobananaz. The DVD will be available in June.
The Yeah Yeah Yeahs have been making the rounds this past week promoting their latest release It’s Blitz!
I finally got around to listening to the album that dropped last month, and am floored by what may actually be better than Show Your Bones, the trios’ previous effort that was sublime.
Karen O, lead singer, has perfected her voice on this album. Her signature squeal laid against the undercurrent of bass and reverb synth is the perfect balance that made such hits as “Gold Lion” and “Phenomena.”
On this, their third album, YYY seem to capture all the best attributes of their previous efforts, bottle it, shake it violently and uncork them on the lucky listener.
The album begins with its first single, “Zero,” a great base to build on filled with a synth riff that heralds a raucous ignition.
The drumbeat transports the song through a subtle base ride that builds relentlessly without ease. The song signifys a full on audio assault that is only appropriate considering the album’s name.
From there the sound only proceeds to build from such a start capitalizing on “Heads Will Roll” and “Soft Shock,” two faster tempo songs, before diving headlong into “Skeletons.”
“Skeletons” features clanking drum sticks, as if emulating bones jangling together, before levitating into an eerily muted tune that sounds almost hymn-like. The departure for the band rounds out with a gusty wind movement as O’s haunting voice fades.
From there the band slides into a comfortable pace as O, Brian Chase and Nick Zinner proceed to build an album less based in guitar riffs and more stemming from electronic beats. It is similar, although not as extreme, as Bloc Party’s Intimate move towards dance infused rock.
While unexpected, the album shows growth in all the right directions. YYY is coming into its own on this album, aware of its strengths and capitalizing on them.
It’s Blitz! Is just that, an assault on the senses that leaves the listener asking for more. Expect to see great things from this band.