When a group of cartoon rockers dropped a platinum-selling debut album back in 2001, I think it's safe to say that it took a few people by surprise. The idea was great. Tank Girl creator teams up with Blur frontman and a rotating cast of musical guests to create a multimedia experience for the eyes as well as the ears. Packing rock, hip-hop, reggae and latin influences into a genre-bending musical experience, Gorillaz seeped into the consciousness of the American main stream. Spearheaded by the amazingly catchy single "Clint Eastwood", Gorillaz became a relatively household name and a slew of remix records, rumors of a full length film and just about anything else you can imagine followed. With Demon Days, Gorillaz are no longer a surprise. They are no longer an unknown group coming out of nowhere. Now, as a big priority for Virgin Records and with all the pressure that comes along with that, the big question is, "how will the new album stand up?"
With Dangermouse taking the place of former producer Dan The Automator and De La Soul picking up where Del The Funky Homosapien left off, things are at least a little different. Gorillaz still hold fast to their goal of creating dark, brooding pop music, but this time around, the album is more complex, layered and gritty. Most of you are familiar with the single, "Feel Good Inc.". While it might not have the immediate, obvious hook that "Clint Eastwood" did, it basically wraps everything going on in today's musical climate into one incredible song. It's easy, cool bass line and megaphone-sung vocals lead up to an acoustic guitar and sweet singing before launching into an aggressive and demonic hip-hop explosion from De La Soul. Through the single, Gorillaz have shown what the new album, and really, the band itself, is all about - molding all forms of music into something new, different, and accessible to the masses. As if held together by some thin, intangible thread of consciousness, Gorillaz keep fans guessing with Demon Days. From one song to the next (and sometimes within the same song), the listener is treated to a never-ending onslaught of musical styles. "Last Living Souls" is a chilled out electro groove with Damon Albarn's ethereal voice floating sparsely back and forth between blips and beeps and quiet acoustic guitar. The very next song, "O Green World", is filled with chunky rock & roll guitars hammering out power chords. Gorillaz follow that up with a sing-a-long intro using school kids for "Dirty Harry" (an homage to 2001's "Clint Eastwood"), though it quickly turns into a hip-hop jam with vocals from the Pharcyde's Booty Brown floating over a mishmosh of strings, pounding, urban beats and slippery, sliding bass. And these are only the first three songs! Demon Days is a non-stop roller coaster that will reveal new twists and turns with each listen, and guest spots from MF Doom and actor Dennis Hopper (who reads a spoken word piece) only add to the excitement. To answer the question posed in the previous paragraph (and in most of your minds), YES. This album not only stands up to the band's debut, it stands above it. It's easily the most creative and all encompassing album I've heard in a long time. If the music world knows what's good for itself, Demon Days will be huge.