Gorillaz, the creation of Blur lead singer Damon Albarn, released new album “Cracker Island” on Feb. 24, 2023.
The band had been teasing the album for about six months ever since the release of the single and accompanying music video “Cracker Island ” featuring Thundercat in June 2022. A few months later they released the list of collaborators that will be on the album. From Bad Bunny to previous collaborator Beck and Stevie Nicks, anticipation was high. Names that big would have high expectations tied to them, so a cracking album was to be delivered. The disappointment that came from the 37-minute album was heartbreaking. It was nothing like the band has made before, and not in a good way. They changed for the worse, if that’s even possible, adapting to the more popular sounds of the 21st century. It feels as if Gorillaz has lost who they once were.
Building on the premise that the band moved out to Los Angeles to start a cult, there is potential. The idea is hilarious and has a great story to build upon. They even released little podcast episodes about the making of the album through the eyes of the lead singer. The lead up to the album, everything they had been releasing with new merchandise and lore, made the album seem like a wondrous mystery. The marketing team must have been on their A-game considering the album was a disappointment to many.
It felt rushed even though the band had been working on it since 2020. Listening to it felt like watching the newer Marvel movies. It does not compare to the previous albums of “Demon Days” and “Plastic Beach.” The album has no energy. It feels bland and dry, almost as if Tame Impala had too much influence on the album. Tracks like “Skinny Ape” and “Cracker Island” bring some speed. “Tormenta” featuring Bad Bunny brings an interesting Latin feel that doesn’t bring any real motivation to the album. It’s not worth listening to a second time. “Silent Running” is actually decent, something that is worth listening to again but as background music.
“Oil” featuring Stevie Nicks was fairly disappointing. It had the potential to be fantastic, but Nicks in that setting just seemed wrong. It didn’t really work and it just felt sad the entire time.
The entire album had this underlying feeling of sadness and gloom to it and that’s really not what we need from Gorillaz. Yes they have songs that tackle environmental issues or inequality, but something was off with “Cracker Island” and it just didn’t have the same effect. The songs all sounded the same, which in some instances can be an artistic decision if they are going to bleed into one another and hypnotize the listener into an hour of music without realizing it. But the sound of “Cracker Island” made time all too relevant and the end couldn’t come sooner. It needed more change, like the band is used to, because that is what they are good at.
Not every album can knock music out of the park. But this album would be ranked below “The Now Now.” Hopefully Gorillaz will learn from “Cracker Island” and recognize that the Top 40 sound isn’t their thing.
“Cracker Island” can be found on any streaming service.