It’s exciting times for Gorillaz fans. The fictional animated quartet – created by artist Jamie Hewlett and Damon Albarn – have just released another four new tracks from their forthcoming album. Their last was 2011’s ‘The Fall’, recorded on an iPad during the tour for 2010’s ‘Plastic Beach’. Hints to what the new LP sounds like are few and far between, but Albarn has said “It’s really fast, and it’s got quite a lot of energy.” While we wait for their next release (penned for later this year) there’s plenty of Gorillaz goodness to look back on – here are all of their singles so far, ranked in order of greatness.
17. Lil’ Dub Chefin’ (with Spacemonkeyz)
This 2002 Spacemonkeyz remix of Gorillaz’s ‘M1A1’ is a weird reggae-Gorillaz fusion track – drawn from ‘Laika Come Home’, their reggae and dub-remix LP of Gorillaz’s self-titled debut.
16. Rhinestone Eyes
The same sing-song spoken cadence as ‘Feel Good Inc’ doesn’t quite come off here on ‘Rhinestone Eyes’, whose droopy, squalling synths seem to casually foretell nuclear armageddon.
15. Phoner To Arizona
To be fair to it, ‘Phoner To Arizona’’s burrowing bass notes are pretty hypnotic, but without the lyrics to match, it isn’t the most striking Gorillaz single out there.
14. El Mañana/Kids With Guns (feat. Neneh Cherry)
‘El Mañana’ and ‘Kids With Guys’ were collectively the fourth and final single from 2005’s ‘Demon Days’, as a double A-side. The former is a dreamy plink-fest; the basic tap-tap of ‘Kids With Guns’ builds to a busy, fuzzy climax, while Neneh Cherry provides barely perceptible backing vocals.
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13. Revolving Doors/Amarillo
Finger-picked guitar and uncomfortably prodding synths drive the first cut from this double A-side, drawn from the group’s iPad-recorded 2011 album, ‘The Fall’. The double single’s much lovelier second half, ‘Amarillo’ is an expansive, weepy electro-ballad, if a little pensive.
Initially sounding like an entry in the Mario Kart soundtrack with its farty, MIDI-like noises, this standalone track from the post-‘Plastic Beach’ period of late 2010 transforms with the arrival of soulful guest vocalist Daley.
It was never going to be a bad single with LCD Soundsystem, Outkast’s André 3000 and Gorillaz involved. Punctuated by blurted trumpets, this chorus is sung by James Murphy, before André 3000 swoops in for a smooth bridge into fast-paced rap. The song was commissioned by shoemakers Converse for their ‘Three Artists. One Song’ series.
10. Superfast Jellyfish (feat. Gruff Rhys and De La Soul)
Names can be misleading – like so much Gorillaz material, ‘Superfast Jellyfish’ has a decidedly slowed-down, hip-hop beat. It’s ostensibly about cereal, and it’s brilliant. The drums may well be the best thing about it, despite oozing personality from unpredictable synths, tongue-in-cheek rappers De La Soul and its cheery chorus-singer, Super Furry Animals frontman Gruff Rhys.
9. Rock The House (feat. Del Tha Funkee Homosapien)
Del Tha Funkee Homosapien is the best thing about this track – other than its sample, from John Forté’s smooth jam ‘How Many People (Ready To Rock the House?)’. But that flute will stick around in your head for days. You’re welcome.
8. Stylo (feat. Bobby Womack and Mos Def)
One of the best things from 2010’s ‘Plastic Beach’ is this moody, synth-led track featuring Brooklyn rapper Mos Def and soul legend Bobby Womack. And it’s their contributions that make it shine, particularly Womack, the sound of whose inimitable howl is a Gorillaz first. If that wasn’t enough, the video is a desert-based car chase featuring Bruce Willis.
7. Tomorrow Comes Today
What’s not great about a low-slung beat, downcast bassline and weary harmonica? This cut from the band’s debut is like hitchhiking way into a grimy space western – 10 years before Django Django headed in the same direction in the Beach Boys’ squeaky-clean camper van.
6. On Melancholy Hill
Another from ‘Plastic Beach’, ‘On Melancholy Hill’ is at the bitter end of bittersweet, despite the carefree prancing of its synths. “It’s that feeling,” the band’s fictional bassist Murdoc Niccals has said, “that place that you get in your soul sometimes, like someone’s let your tyres down.” If anything Gorillaz have created is approaching true beauty, this is it.
5. Dirty Harry (feat. Bootie Brown)
“I need a gun to keep myself from harm,” sing children in this song, which as a whole (including its title) is understood to be an attack on President George W Bush. But as the third single from their 2005 album, ‘Demon Days’, it’s also just a banging tune.
Here, getting the “cool shoeshine” doesn’t sound that great, although on the Soulchild remix, which brought the single to a much wider audience, it really does. Amazing what a change of pace can do. ’19-2000′ was written to mark the Millennium, and on the name, fictional bassist Murdoc says, “19-2000 fitted the bill. It was that or ‘Millennium’ and that’s a shit name for a song.” Agreed, but don’t tell Robbie Williams.
3. DARE (feat. Shaun Ryder)
From ‘Demon Days’, ‘DARE’ is Gorillaz’s only chart-topping single, although it’s sold less overall than the album’s other big-hitter, ‘Feel Good Inc’ The video sees Shaun Ryder’s giant cyborg-ified head dominating a tiny room, and the effect he has on the track is much the same. It’s a taut, if melancholy creation, every hook latching onto the listener, from the zipping bass synths to the intermittent choral harmonies.
2. Clint Eastwood (feat. Del Tha Funkee Homosapien)
‘Clint Eastwood’ is the menacing shamble that acted as Gorillaz’s lethargic introduction to the world. “Finally someone let me out of my cage”, raps Del Tha Funkee Homosapien, but the rest of the group just limp along behind him, unbothered. Underneath the darkness embraced by the band, you can almost hear the “sunshine in a bag” that virtual singer 2D wearily bangs on about. It’s a guerrilla earworm, and hit Number Four on the UK Chart.
1. Feel Good Inc (feat. De La Soul)
Unbeatable bassline? Yep. World-weary half-singing, half-talking? Yep. Visceral rap section? Yep. ‘Feel Good Inc’ bears all the best hallmarks of Gorillaz’s schtick, plus a bit of crazy laughter for good measure. To date it’s the culmination of their efforts, singles-wise – will they ever top it?