Film Editor Jess Parker reviews Gorillaz new album Cracker Island, describing it as ‘a strong entry amongst Gorillaz’s already critically-acclaimed discography’
Virtual reality band Gorillaz released Cracker Island, their eighth studio album, on 24 February 2023. The album introduces a host of thoughtfully produced tracks that feature a range of high-profile collaborators: including Stevie Nicks, Tame Impala, and De La Soul. The album encapsulates vocalist Damon Albarn’s critiques of the modern world, embodying a cult aesthetic in their cartoon music videos and featuring lyrics that feel anxiously poignant.
Gorillaz are a virtual band made up of avatars, including Murdoc, Noodle, 2-D and Russel Hobbs. The English band was formed in 1998 by Damon Albarn of Blur and artist Jamie Hewlett.
Working with producer Greg Kurstin, Cracker Island is inspired by the group’s relocation to California’s Silver Lake and digs into recognisable the musical tropes and features that Gorillaz fans have come to expect from the band. Although perhaps many of the album’s songs may feel predictable and to be expected from the band’s repertoire, Gorillaz have used their signature style to produce a new album that acts as a form of social commentary.
The album’s titular track ‘Cracker Island’, featuring bassist and producer Thundercat, feels reminiscent of the band’s comeback album Humanz (2017). The track’s electronic-funk influence, much like Humanz, feels adequately geared towards the age of the internet and modern music consumption, amalgamating many of the band’s past sounds to form a second single that captures the album’s essence flawlessly.
Cracker Island’s lead single, ‘New Gold’, took the internet by storm by collaborating with beloved artist Tame Impala and Gorillaz heavyweight Bootie Brown. The track blends the old and the new, reminiscent of previous tracks featuring Bootie Brown that have gone down as some of Gorillaz’s best: ‘Clint Eastwood’ (2001) and ‘Dirty Harry’ (2005). Tame Impala’s Kevin Parker provides a catchy hook that’s psych-funk feel modernises Gorillaz’s signature sound.
On ‘Silent Running’, Albarn digs into a crooning style that has found a recent resurgence in the likes of the Arctic Monkey, Matt Maltese, and The Magic Gang, singing of modern anxieties: Machine assisted, I disappear”. Cracker Island (Deluxe) features ‘Silent Running [2D Piano Version]’, an acoustic take on the song that’s simplicity places emphasis on Albarn’s reflective lyrics and Adeleye Omotayo’s richly emotive tone.
Cracker Island is a strong entry amongst Gorillaz’s already critically-acclaimed discography, introducing a level of emotional depth and a range of new sounds for the group that feel at home in the 2020s. Albarn’s self-aware lyricisms consider the state of the creative industry today and enlist various influential artists to collaborate with his message, making the most of the practicalities of the band’s Californian relocation.
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