Is west London an artistic state of mind? For those living in Hounslow it is a tangible, grey reality. But for generations of Bohemian musician types it’s represented a W11, genre-busting nirvana; where cultures melt, bass bins boom, and middle-class white boys talk
in an embarrassing dubwise patois.
One can easily track the west London lineage from The Clash’s dub adventures through to UNKLE’s over-egged ‘Psyence Fiction’ extravaganza (calling in at such trad stalwarts of the scene as Brand New Heavies or Jay Kay, and visiting disciples like Massive Attack or Stereo MC’s), before ending up at ‘Gorillaz’, the ultimate west London album. That its authors originate from outside the postcode matters not. It is a perfect example of the genre.
Gorillaz actually advance the genre into
a whole new dimension by not even existing. They are a conceptual project that Blur’s Damon Albarn
and illustrator Jamie Hewlett ([I]Tank Girl[/I], west London class of ’93, guy) dreamt up [I]using their minds[/I]. Wow.
The perfect west London group: a
multi-cultural funky figment of white, indie, suburbanite imagination – an interactive cartoon band who use dub and hip-hop techniques to create sickly-sweet bubblegum pop.
And it is quite good fun. More so to make than to listen to, but that is already an improvement on ‘Psyence Fiction’, the album that ‘Gorillaz’ most resembles. That’s because Damon has such a pop nose that even sailing into uncharted Albarn territory he remains tunefully anchored. Nowhere is this more evident than on the album’s real triumph, the single ‘Clint Eastwood’ – the best indie-dance record in years, elevated so by Del Tha Funkee Homosapien’s singular rap.
There are other good bits, too. ‘Tomorrow Comes Today”s majestic melancholy sways to an Augustus Pablo melodica and a Soul II Soul rhythm. But, but, but…
It plods somewhat. It’s so in love with the limitless potential of its musical gadgetry, with all the new ways Damon’s discovered to sing, with its ecleticism, that it becomes twee, wearisome. It should be on Mo’Wax, a label that patented the idea of the good bit.
Still, well done, Damon. He really is very talented and he really can do many different types of music. He can be the Tom Tom Club as well as Pavement as well as the Kinks. He can be west London as well as Essex.
But whispers coming out of Parlophone suggest that ‘Gorillaz’ might be where Damon stops experimenting: he ‘wants to compete again’. It’s good news. All this exciting experimentation sure makes for some dull listening.