Classic Album Review: Demon Days by Gorillaz


Amin Shah, Music Editor

Gorillaz is a virtual band led by Damon Albarn and co-creator and animator Jamie Hewlett, who animates the music videos of the band along with ‘‘interviews’’ and other material. Demon Days is their second LP, following their self-titled debut album. It is acclaimed by many critics to be one of the greatest modern albums of all time. It has a post-apocalyptic-esque sound, which is what they were going for as the album is centered on humanity and the world after the events of 9/11, which changed everything and seemingly divided many, which this album encapsulates perfectly with the gloomy dreadful feeling that hangs over each song of the album (with the exception of the outro, but I will get to that).

The Tracks:
The album begins with an intro with the repeating sample phrase of ‘‘who put me at the bottom of the food chain?’’ with a malicious sounding instrumental (consisting of droning noises and a menacing violin), which is a fitting beginning to the album as it is a political statement about the rise of industry, marketing, violence, terrorism, and all other negative things that were happening around 2005. It leads to the second track, which is named ‘‘The Last Living Souls’’, which puts a questionable upbeat melody over dark lyrics, but a piano coda leads to a bass-heavier version with strings in the background, which can display the deterioration of the song’s tone into its true colors. Throughout the album, the lo-fi bass is a very prominent instrument that is seemingly the main instrument in each song. This is due to the fact that in this virtual band, there is a surprisingly long storyline which I will not divulge into, but the leader of the group is a bass player, so to display his superiority over the others, he allows the bass to be the most heard. Moving on, the next song is a classic off of the album. It’s named ‘‘Kids With Guns’’ and begins with a very catchy bass hook. It is about the brutalization of the younger generation, as increased violence throughout the country and world with acts like school shootings now becoming more prominent, it is still a very undated message that applies to the world in 2022. Following that is ‘‘O Green World’’, which is a song that nearly resembles ‘‘The Last Living Souls’’ but with a darker undertone and more ghostly vocals given by Damon Albarn. Again, it is of a darker, post-apocalyptic future as the lyrics are about how industrialization and the people have ruined the planet, which can allow the title of ‘‘O Green World’’ to be an intentional misnomer. Following that track is another classic called ‘‘Dirty Harry’’. The lyrics can be interpreted in several ways, either related to the title ‘‘Dirty Harry’’, which is a Clint Eastwood movie about a vigilante cop with his handgun always at his side, but the fact that children are singing the chorus which consists of ‘‘I need a gun to keep myself among, the poor people, are burning in the sun, no, they ain’t got a chance, they ain’t got a chance, I need a gun, ’cause all I do is dance, ’cause all I do is dance’’, which can either attribute to a similar meaning that ‘‘Kids With Guns’’ gave off or just simply displaying the violence due to war that soldiers had to go through, as the music video for the song took place in a desert, which can most likely allude to the war in Afghanistan taking place. Afterwards, ‘‘Feel Good Inc’’ comes next. Most recognize this song from the insanely iconic bass riff that is apparent throughout the whole song. It features De La Soul for a rap verse in the middle of the song. It is believed that this song is about how those will try to fill the void they have with meaningless pleasures that are available to them and waste their lives in indulgence of these pleasures. Many even attempt to market these pleasures for further consumption of them, which is where the ‘‘Inc.’’ comes from. “El Mańana’’ is the next track. It is personally one of my favorite tracks and it is one of the most sorrowful on the album, as the acoustic guitar and peering synths along with the recurring string instruments and Damon Albarn’s weak vocals all tie together and complete this song beautifully. They also support the lyrics, as they display the desperation and loss of hope while waiting for the better future that will never arrive, as ‘‘el mańana’’ means the future instead of mańana on its own, which means tomorrow. ‘‘Every Planet We Reach is Dead’’ comes next, which is another dreadful song about the loss of hope and trying to hide from the harsh reality that is present and ignore it by drowning in unrealistic dreams, which will only lead to disappointment. For a nice change of pace, the next song ‘‘November Has Come’’ features MF DOOM in a track that can probably be called a hip-hop track. MF DOOM raps about the fate of the gangster rapper and how their road will lead all of them to a similar fate of getting shot while accompanied by Damon Albarn’s chorus and background harmonies. ‘‘All Alone’’ is another hip-hop song on the album featuring Roots Manuva, who raps about the fear of being alone in a universe without the protection of a higher being, rendering all prayer and faith useless in the long path of life. ‘‘White Light’’ sticks out like a sore thumb on this album, deeming many to not enjoy the track, but I personally love the energy and instrumentation that it features. It is a very fast paced song with the repeating phrases of ‘‘white light’’ and ‘‘alcohol’’, which can possibly display a dependency on alcohol which leads to an addiction to escape the world. Midway through the song, a beautiful segue begins with string instruments that lead back into the repeating lyrics and distorted instrumentation that takes over the song. ‘‘DARE’’ is another sore thumb on the album, but one I enjoy for different reasons. It is a dance-pop song made for radio play, but it has become a classic over the years and one of the most critically acclaimed songs on the album. Roses Gabor does the lead vocals with Damon Albarn harmonizing with softer vocals and features Shaun Ryder with his infamous ‘‘It’s dare’’ lyric. Many believe there is no deeper meaning, as it is just a fun song, while others believe it is attempting to remove yourself from reality and enjoy yourself throughout the harsh reality that we all are living in, an example of one of the pleasures that are apparent in the other songs. ‘‘Fire Coming Out of A Monkey’s Head’’ is the most lyrical song, as it is literally just Dennis Hopper narrating a song with a few sections where Damon Albarn sings his chorus. This song has taken many meanings, as it can display the ‘‘strangefolk’’ talked about in the song being those looking for resources to fuel industry while the ‘‘happyfolk’’ are those who have their lands used and destroyed for resources. The “strangefolk” finding the resources eventually leads to the ‘‘fire coming out of the monkey’s head’’, which can display the volcano in the village erupting, killing everyone. This can also be put in the perspective of 9/11, as the “strangefolk” could be terrorists while the “happyfolk” could be Americans before the incident occurred. It is up to interpretation. The song is then followed by ‘‘Don’t Get Lost in Heaven’’ and the album closer ‘‘Demon Days’’, which are two songs meant to be played one right after the other, as it allows the album to end on a positive and hopeful note instead of the sorrow and hopeless feeling that the previous track gave, allowing for the future to be left up to the decisions that people will continue to make, either for the better or worse. ‘‘Don’t Get Lost in Heaven’’ can be about not getting lost in your own pleasures and to take a step into reality and ground yourself to prepare for what is to come next while ‘‘Demon Days’’ is just a continuation of that feeling, giving the listener hope if we continue to follow the path of perseverance and clear mindedness, allowing for the future we wish for to be ours.

The Verdict:
For clear reasons, I love this album. The themes present throughout the song and the point of the album as a whole is incredibly intriguing and done perfectly, as I get what they were going for with each and every decision made on song choices, titles, features, etc. Along with the fact that it is lyrically beautiful, the combination of these lo-fi instruments coming together to form this beautiful mesh of sound apparent on each track is just wonderful to listen to altogether (as alone, these layers would not sound too good). Most of these tracks are incredibly re-playable due to their sonic appeal (even though the production isn’t one of the albums greatest feats) and their overall catchiness, which steams from iconic bass riffs, ghastly vocals given by Damon Albarn, acoustic codas, and the beautiful strings that appear on several songs as closers to bring it all together. This album is a modern classic and everyone who likes alternative music, hip hop, rock, punk, experimental, or any other genre should listen to this album, as it is diverse and will not lose your attention for a second. This is an easy 10/10 album.