Across two solid decades in the game, Gorillaz the British four-piece have been consistent with their genre-bending pieces. Cracker Island, their most recent release, is no exception. The album, similar to prior releases, incites excitement to hop from track to track, by not evolving their sound beyond prior projects there is a sense that Damon Alban and the gang have played it safe with this fun but prosaic project.
A line-up that includes Thundercat, Stevie Nicks, Bootie Brown, and Tame Impala is one that would make any other musical act look confused. Nevertheless, against all odds, Gorrilaz pulls it off. I imagine Damon Alban to be one of those people that “LiStEn tO eVeRyThInG” and actually mean it.
Gorillaz and Thundercat introduce the album with a synthy bang titled after the album. It’s danceable, and the background vocals are angelic. I only wish the energy stayed as upbeat as the introduction, but, unfortunately, the following tracks are very formulaic due to their simple lyricism. Luckily, the three-song stretch of “Silent Running”, “New Gold”, and “Baby Queen” picks up the pieces left from the dull opening and makes this album shine. Recovering from a weak hook, the instrumentation on “Silent Running,” coupled with Adeyele Omotayo’s beautiful runs, helps to change the pace on the project. “New Gold (feat. Tame Impala and Bootie Brown)” comes next. Quickly becoming a fan favorite, this track features an infectious bassline, bouncy bars from The Pharcyde’s finest, and a psychedelic hook from one of music’s heavyweights. “Baby Queen” decelerates the momentum as Alban helps listeners envision a dream about the crown princess of Thailand, whom he met as a teenager in the 90s, as an older woman.
To close out the project, Gorillaz flexed and made a Bad Bunny song for Bad Bunny, the most popular person in the world right now. That’s Gorillaz’s appeal: these music nerds can summon anyone they want anytime. On top of island-like percussion and soothing Bad Bunny vocals, “Tormenta” presents charismatic and repeatable verses about fleeting love.
This album is pleasant but easy. Gorillaz live against the grain, but even that can become customary. Given its short length and mundane energy, I imagine Damon and crew made Cracker Island in a space of contentment with their art, and rightfully so. Nevertheless, Gorrilaz proved that, even after twenty years, they can continue pulling the industry’s finest together to produce funky, fun music