Reviewed by Marc Savlov, Fri., Aug. 3, 2001
(Virgin)The question is, should one review the Gorillaz themselves, or those shadowy figures lurking just out of sight behind them? Since Murdoc, Russel, 2D, and Noodle are animated non-entities seen only in their Jaime Hewlett-directed videos, I suppose it's best to stick with the latter. In this case, that's Blur frontman Damon Albarn and Dan "the Automator" Nakamura of Handsome Boy Modeling School, with occasional assists from Miho Hatori of Cibo Matto and Hewlett, who when he's not fomenting indie rock revolutions pulls things like Tank Girl out of his seething subconscious. Entirely fictional and better than you'd expect, Gorillaz is one of those rare outfits that sounds good in preliminary chats and then actually manages to pull it off in the long run. The first single -- "Clint Eastwood" -- lopes along at a blissy pace, all hip-hoppy beats and Britpop vibe. That the rest of the album never quite lives up to that song's promise is barely relevant. Gorillaz' West London party groove insinuates itself into darker tracks such as the vocal-free throb of "Double Bass," and the hazy, heat-stroked "Sound Check (Gravity)," which features some of the most languid vocals ever. Half the time, Albarn sounds like he's just woken up, although that's increasingly become his style. Funky if a tad scattershot, Gorillaz isn't likely to convert many wayward Yanks to Albarn's cause, but then again neither is Blur.