Learning To Like Gorillaz
A dear friend who I trust emphatically, told me to listen to the latest release of the band Gorillaz. Their new album release date is April 28 and they recently released four new songs: Andromeda, Ascension, Saturnz Barz and We Got the Power. He is no longer my friend.
In six words, I strongly disliked these four songs and their accompanying videos – neither affected me at all. Hated it hated it hated it. However, now I can blame my friend for inflicting emotional distress on me and legal action will be forthcoming.
Then quite randomly, I read an article on experiencing art in museums – somehow the journalist got on to music and in the words of Benjamin Britten I found inspiration: I’d give Gorillaz a second chance, I’d rehash their music so to speak.
Here’s what Mr. Britten said as quoted in the article:
“That’s why Benjamin Britten, even though he made memorable recordings of most of his major compositions, once claimed that “the loudspeaker is the principal enemy of music.” Strong words, but Britten’s explanation of what he meant has never been more relevant than it is today: “Music demands more from a listener than simply the possessions of a tape-machine or a transistor radio. It demands some preparation, some effort, a journey to a special place, saving up for a ticket, some homework on the program perhaps, some clarification of the ears and sharpening of the instincts.” Who does that kind of “homework” nowadays?” - When It Comes to Art, How Seeing Less is Seeing More – Terry Teachout, Wall Street Journal April 2, 2017
So encouraged by Benjamin (and with gratitude to the journalist who wrote the article), I too will place the demand upon me to undertake some preparation, some effort, in effect do my homework, on listening to the music and watching the videos of Gorillaz.
I did a quick search on Gorillaz and Wikipedia gave me a discography, a timeline and some random factoids about the band. Then it was off to YouTube. I merged the audio with the video and starting with their self titled debut I listened and viewed.
Starting with Re-Hash and continuing down the LP in order I started to get what I heard and what I started to like. I got Herb Albert and his Brass in Rock the House, then it was to a Mexican canzone in Latin Simone (Que Pasa Contigo). A trip south of the border a badly made western (and often watched), Desperado with Los Lobo’s evocative soundtrack. Then with Desperado I couldn’t resist Clint Eastwood. This bouncy tune reminded me of music made by The Roland TR-808 the “808” and reminiscent of King Creole and the Coconuts. Today, the inventor of the 808 died – Ikutaro Kakehashi was 87 (how else would I know about these instruments – some of my best learning comes from the Obituary page of The New York Times). Gorillaz warmly embraces the synthesizer and electronic percussion.
The best thing I can say about doing the homework, it got me to listen to the early recordings and left me with two things. One, the music is very diverse, I can’t help but hear other music and bands in the opening notes of a Gorillaz song. They are music mannerists. Gorillaz takes on the style, tone, timber, melodies and harmonies of a very wide variety of musical styles and genres and what is pretty amazing they cover a very wide range not in the fashion of a cover band but with original music from a variety of styles. Maybe that is the appeal to their very large musical audience. I continued randomly choosing tracks from their next albums from Demon Days, and Live At the Manchester Opera House right up to this month’s release. Maybe, what I like about their music is its variety, taken as a whole I can randomly evoke the styles of music I enjoy and don’t enjoy. I close with D Side’s “Hong Kong” but damn, I can’t remember who this ballad singer reminds me of – a British Seals and Croft, no less pop with a Japanese mandolin sound maybe Procol Harum – I have more homework to do, but I am glad I took another listen.