Gorillaz & friends

De La Soul / Danny Brown / Vince Staples

Dreamland, Margate, UK

They might bear the dubious distinction of ‘world’s biggest virtual band’, but Gorillaz have all but phased out any ‘virtual’ pretentions. What began as cartoonish conceit has, perhaps inevitably, become more real and binding in development. And while they limply persist with certain gimmicks – the inexplicable presence of death figures roaming Dreamland’s grounds all day; the frankly distracting stage animations (which goes for ALL screens); the fact we’re in Dreamland (geddit?) – you get the impresssion this garish Hewlett factor is now extraneous to Gorillaz’ newfound verisimilitude.


The architecture of new album ‘Humanz’ mines a deeper musical trench, and perennial show-off Damon Albarn has made a surprisingly happy transition into musical egalitarianism. Onstage, he seems to relish the plethora of ‘special guestz’ – including Kilo Kish, a luminescent Kali Uchis, a frenetic Kano, a Graham Coxony Graham Coxon – neither of whom steal or promote his thunder; it’s a perfect storm, typified by the distant thunder of ‘Sex Murder Party’, a deeply salacious ménage abattoirs comprised of Albarn, Kelela and Danny Brown, whose earlier warehouse party made for some thrusty, bass-filthy foreplay. In their own set, De La Soul made faint gestures of some classic tracks; as nominal Gorillaz they stamped bombastic class all over ‘Momentz’ and ‘Feel Good Inc’s windmilling finale, all the while Albarn dipping in and out, impishly jocular as if in, well, Dreamland. It’s infectious too; the party vibes spill frothily from the stage with untamed abandon, as does a bewildered Shaun Ryder’s sleepy lunge through ‘DARE’, which seemed like just that.


And while the circus acts may provide animated distraction – ‘Clint Eastwood’s “sunshine in a bag” casts a novelty shadow – it’s Gorillaz’ emergent humanity, exemplified by the tender Kelela duet ‘Busted & Blue’ and ‘We Got The Power’s call-to-arms, that brings a whole other reality to virtual dimensions.

10 June 2017

*edited-for-print version of this review in Record Collector – OUT SOME POINT!

Set list:

Ascension / Last Living Souls / Saturn Barz / Stylo / Tomorrow Comes Today / Rhinestone Eyes / Charger / Momentz / Submission / Sex Murder Party / She’s My Collar / El Manana / Dirty Harry / Let Me Out / Andromeda / Busted & Blue / Strobelite / Kids With Guns / DARE / Out Of Body / Garage Palace / We Got The Power

Encore: Sleeping Powder / Feel Good Inc. / Clint Eastwood / Don’t Get Lost In Heaven / Demon Days




DAMON ALBARN – ‘Everyday Robots’ album review



Everyday Robots


There’s always been something of a veneer about Damon Albarn – a consummate showman who has retained a guarded persona. As Blur frontman, the façade bordered on caricature – his Mockney hi-jinks contriving to blur certain self-conscious social parameters. That he eventually turned himself into a cartoon gave literal context to the word ‘withdrawn’. And so, after a long and eclectic career, the perennial poseur finally puts his own moniker to a solitary piece of work.

It begins in familiar territory, the title track kicking things off with a Gorillaz-like fusion of classical strings and street-sounds, all soundtracking the technological lament of the album’s title. And when the jazz-soul-funk of Lonely Press Play hammers the metaphor home, we strap ourselves in for a Thom Yorke-style concept-a-thon. However, while Dan Abnormal does have an anagrammatic tendency to scramble – adopting characters like Mr Tembo, which weirdly channels UB40’s Own Song, and the Pink Floyd histrionics of Photographs – he can also reveal a tender side that transcends his conceptual endeavours.

The Selfish Giant, with its space-bound mantra “I had a dream you were leaving”, is like an astronaut’s last words trapped forever on a forgotten wavelength; History Of A Cheating Heart holds a mirror up to the trappings of nostalgia; while the album’s truest gem and final track, Heavy Seas Of Love, is a gospel-led sea shanty that reveals in its playfulness an earnest heart that exposes Damon Albarn to be the big humanitarian softie we always suspected he was.

Stephen Brolan

* Full album review will be published in the April edition of Brumnotes magazine