Wednesday, January 20, 2010

gorillaz, stylo review

If you've not heard it yet, 'Stylo', the new single by Damon Albarn and Jamie Hewlett's subversive, always-interesting pop project, Gorillaz, is all over the internet today, and you owe it to yourself to track it down forthwith. Whisperings about the forthcoming LP, 'Plastic Beach', imply it will be a typically dynamic, eclectic affair, boasting guest spots from Snoop Dogg, Mark E Smith, Lou Reed and many many more.

Albarn has dropped some interesting clues about where Gorillaz is headed over recent months, hinting that his new songs have roots in his abandoned stage project 'Carousel', and that the Blur gigs in the summer persuaded him to revisit his vocals for the LP and abandon his recent usage of guide vocals, preferring instead to sing more directly. The title of the LP suggests that, lyrically, a recurring theme will be the environment, one of Albarn's current passions (he recently told Paul Morley that the two things he is most passionate about are "the effects of our waste and the healing properties of Africa").

But for all that this is interesting, the most intriguing thing about the band - apart from Hewlett's wonderful drawings and Albarn's staggering musicality - remains the dichotomy between Damon's critique of manufactured chart music and his self-evident, not at all contradictory, love of pop.

'Stylo' expresses this perfectly - built on a platform of thudding beats and a persistent, electro bass line, it may feature a stunning, deeply pretty melodic line from Damon, but it also completely lacks a conventional chorus, providing instead a terrific, unhinged hook vocal from Bobby Womack. It sounds stranger, more challenging than previous Gorillaz records.

But it is also easily the most catchy thing Damon has done in years. The bass line alone is stunningly memorable, and the jewel may be Mos Def's short, rhythmically perfect verse in the closing stages. The whole thing swaggers and shines.

It's too early, of course, to say whether it'll engage daytime radio and the general populace in the same way as previous Gorillaz singles, but for me it's superior to every single from the last two LPs with the exception of 'Dare'. And if it IS successful, Damon's genius will have been to have crafted a perfect, vibrant pop single which harks back to the bassy, vibrant electro of early Compass Point (think Grace Jones or Tom Tom Club) and the euphoria of late 80s house music, but which is in no way nostalgic, formulaic or predictable.

In short, I think it's one of the best things he's ever done. And elsewhere? There's really no one, creatively, anywhere near him.


Laura said...

To be honest, you were always going to love this, weren't you? But heard it earlier and have to say that you're completely right - best thing Albarn has done in years and years. So funky (hate that word).

Anonymous said...

Amazing record, and to think this is the same guy who wrote 'Country House'.

As annoying as that record was the progression between the tunes has been a joy to listen to.

Puts Noel Gallagher to shame!