Gorillaz's debut: any good, or time to admit you only ever really liked the drawings?

GORILLAZ, the cartoon vehicle for Britpop’s Damon Albarn once nobody could bear to look at him, lit up the 00s but are they good? Or was it just the cool videos? 

Clint Eastwood was a stolen preset

The first single? Their signature tune that made you like them? The melody is lifted wholesale from a Suzuki Omnichord. You could argue that all artistic greatness stands on the shoulders of giants who have gone before, but you could also argue that Damon Albarn was a lazy prick who chucked some lyrics over the top of pressing a button and made a fortune.

You weren’t listening for the thought-provoking lyrics

It’s not uncommon for bands to build a career off the back of garbled bullshit. Look at Nirvana. But at least they had the decency to pair Cobain’s mumblings with captivating chord progressions. All Gorillaz had to offer was lines such as ‘do the aqua boogie, win lots of goodies’ spoken over samples of better music.

The only good tracks were remixes

The two best songs on the album were both sped up, rapped-over versions of lesser iterations. Because Damon knew this and was ashamed, the Ed Case/Sweetie Irie Refix of Clint Eastwood was a hidden track you had to fast forward to get to, while the Soulchild remix of 19-2000 didn’t appear on every pressing.

You were a trendy, turn-of-the-millennium dickhead

You weren’t alone. Everyone in 2001 was a proto-Nathan Barley dicking about with Nokia ringtones and socially acceptable homophobia. A cartoon band that was both an ironic commentary on the shallowness of MTV while also pandering to it was bound to succeed. It was the spirit of the arsehole times.

The art was really good

Jamie Hewlett can draw. It’s why he was a huge success right out of the gate with Tank Girl, which was juvenile, funny and so winningly delineated it became a Hollywood film that sucked. He drew great album covers and fantastic videos which everybody loved while, in retrospect, merely tolerating the music.

They were a novelty band for grownups

Gorillaz were Madness for people swilling Hooch and Two Dogs. They were The Archies for the CD generation. Snobs refused to call them ‘real music’, and they’d be correct. They weren’t a virtual band, they were a novelty one, and their debut album should be consigned to the musical scrapheap with their contemporaries Aqua and Crazy Frog.

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