How do you remix a cartoon? Answer: like this...
This B-sides collection is aimed at the Japanese market, and the sleeve gives the game away. For once, Noodle (the Gorillaz
girl whose parents are Manga cartoon characters) is the star. Apart from an X-Box or Julian Casablancas, it’s hard to imagine Tokyo youth getting more excited about anything else. A cartoon character and the singer inBlur! What’s the Japanese for ‘ker-ching’?
But just over a year ago, Japan was probably the only place you’d have bet on Gorillaz
doing business. In Sterophonics-loving Britain, the joke didn’t exactly take off like ‘The Simpsons’. Both the conceit (Damon Albarn ‘advising’ his cartoon chums) and the music (politically correct hip-hop meets world music and the old dude in the Buena Vista Social Club) were greeted with disdain from many critics, who’d have much preferred another ‘Tender’.
Since then, the world has come round to Albarn’s animated sabbatical in a big way. This is because, in addition to those MTV dominating videos, Gorillaz
are an excellent singles band – ‘Clint Eastwood’ and ’19-2000′ were two of the singles of 2001. Here we get alternative versions of ’19-2000′ (Soulchild Remix) and ‘Clint Eastwood’ (Phi Life Cypher version). But ‘G-Sides’ works because it captures both Gorillaz’ lush, dub laced pop (the singles) and their darker, ’13’-on-smack, hypno-rock (the b-sides). The Life and Si Phily rap on ‘Clint Eastwood’ transform it into a booming hip-hop track. And Soulchild’s re-working of ’19-2000′ is even sunnier than the original. The debut single ‘Tomorrow Comes Today’ has, however, been criminally ignored.
Which just leaves another single, ‘Rock The House’, and seven B-sides. It doesn’t sound promising, but ‘Dracula’ and ‘Ghost Train’ should remind Blur
fans what they’re missing. Gone is the world music vibe which marred ‘Gorillaz’; in its place, there’s a less considered, seedy yet comic turn of events. ‘Dracula’ is a lazy paced dub metaphor about excess ([I]”Some of us will never sleep again”[/I]); ‘Faust’ is sparse, cinematic percussion which flowers into a tired, emotional duet between Albarn and a lady called Miho Hator; and ‘Ghost Train’ is a rumbling, electro-driven oddity which samples Human League and climaxes like a 21st Century[a][/a].
It shouldn’t work, but it does – perhaps, because, for once Albarn doesn’t sound like he’s trying too hard. If you’re a dedicated fan you’ll own everything on ‘G-Sides’ already. But everyone else should just give in toGorillaz. And that includes Graham Coxon.