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Gorillaz make good pets

Jane Rocca looks at the seminal Gorillaz album, Demon Days [released in 2005]: Gorillaz got started when Blur’s Damon Albarn and Tank Girl creator Jamie Hewlett shared an apartment after each of them had a long time romance break up. That was quite a few years ago in the late 90s. Albarn, who had already become a smashing indie identity with his band Blur, started knocking together music on drum machines and analog synthesizers, while Hewlett devised characters: the band as an alliance of subcultures. ‘Mingling rock, reggae and hip-hop in songs with a low-fi charm, the music on Demon Days, as on the previous album, is sparse and shifty’, said Jon Pareles from the New York Times. ‘Loose-limbed beats from cheap drum machines, the blips and swoops of old synthesizers, distorted guitar and Mr. Albarn’s bleary voice can suddenly make way for orchestral strings, a gospel choir, or a swerve into a different style. The album hints at late-1970’s reggae and early hip-hop’. The diverse nature of Demon Days is what makes it a winner. The London Community Gospel Choir can be heard on the title track, while guest spots by rock legend Ike Turner, the Happy Mondays’ Shaun Ryder and underground rapper MF Doom appear throughout other cuts. Guitarist Noodle started writing the album in March 2004. ‘I began just writing basic tunes on my Tascam four-track, sketching out ideas as I proceeded’, she says. ‘Once I had what I felt to be the main outline and template for the album, I started layering further textures, melodies and sounds over the top. The compositions began to take shape, and gradually the songs began revealing their true identities, and to which direction they needed to be taken. It was around then that I heard of DJ Dangermouse. I was impressed with the work he had done on his own Grey Album. He had spliced together the work of the Beatles and Jay Z to create something new. It was wonderfully inventive and showed a child-like creativity, artistic bravery and disregard for convention that I thought suited Gorillaz. So I contacted him’. So what about the band’s decision to pull in the Happy Monday’s Shaun Ryder to appear on the record? ‘We contacted Shaun Ryder to work on the album because we knew he’d fit with the track’, says Hobbs. ‘As a lyricist Shaun Ryder was one of the only true voices and documenters of that late 80s/early 90s period. You can tell he’s an original because he spawned so many imitators. Not just musically but in his lifestyle and the way he spoke, right down to his sense of humour and taste in clothes’. On a kooky note and in true Gorillaz style 2D said that Demon Days was ‘like someone has taken the first album and coloured it in’.