Gorillaz, the team-up between Blur’s Damon Albarn and visual artist Jamie Hewlett, has always been heavy on the musical exploration – being a ‘virtual band’ where Albarn can recruit a murder’s row of guest stars or just go solo. The styles and favorites have waxed and waned, but for Cracker Island, Albarn & co. (or rather, 2-D, Murdoc Niccals, Noodle and Russel Hobbs) go to the discotheque.
Of course, this is the disco as reinterpreted by Albarn and his musical guests. The titular opener drops beats thanks to Thundercat, while the soaring vocals of Fleetwood Mac’s Stevie Nicks brings more to mind the sonic highways of the actual seventies in the following “Oil”. Adeleye Omotayo has some evening disco on “Silent Running”, but the Gorillaz discotheque sees both Tame Impala psych and Bootie Brown rhymes with the subsequent “New Gold”.
Not every song on the Island is so synthesized. Indeed, Bad Bunny delivers his Spanish language & rhythms to “Tormenta”, while closer “Possession Island” has piano-led stark grandeur from the sad side of Beck. But even in the times without listed guests, Gorillaz lean disco, such as the relaxed Albarn kiss-off “The Tired Influencer” or the swaying effects on “Baby Queen”.
You never quite know what you’re gonna get from Gorillaz, and that’s really been a good thing, the virtual nature of the experiment allowing for experimentation. Cracker Island might not be as outright revelatory in its invention as some prior releases, but strongly delivers this version of itself.