Gorillaz: End of an Era


Approximately 15 years ago, two roommates were sitting on the couch in their Westbourne Grove apartment, watching MTV.  The two men were disgusted by what they saw, hot girls in skimpy outfits and cocky men driving next year’s luxury car model.  Nothing substantial, nothing meaningful, just a bunch of shallow “artists” and material possessions.  These two men then hatched a plan to make a mockery of it.

These men, of course, happen to be Damon Albarn (then frontman for British indie rock band Blur) and Jamie Hewlett (cult comic book illustrator, best known for “Tank Girl”), and their plan took the form of a cartoon band which they initially named “Gorilla”.  There were four characters: 2D, the dense but charming frontman; Murdoc, the demonic bass player; Russel, the soulful yet unstable drummer and Noodle, a young Japanese girl with a mysterious past.  Their first recordings and videos were rough and hardly got their message across.  Their first single, “Tomorrow Comes Today” was something that could appeal only to eclectic tastes and cynical nonconformists.

But once “Clint Eastwood” hit the airwaves, the music world would never be quite the same.

The concept of a virtual band is kind of hard to grasp for many people.  Basically, it’s defined as a musical artist that is primarily represented by cartoons in their videos, performances, cover art, etc.  Some examples would be Alvin and the Chipmunks, Crazy Frog, Vocaloid and Studio Killers.  While virtual bands may be successful in places such as Japan (the members of Vocaloid are popular cosplay subjects and they have even been featured in a few Japanese video games), the Western world usually has a hard time idolizing celebrities that are not actually real.

Gorillaz changed that.  When their song “Feel Good Inc.” blew up in 2005, it began a new beginning in music.  Many of their loyal fans can trace their beginnings with the group to their “Demon Days” album.  And just ask any random person on the streets about Gorillaz.  Hip hop lovers remember “Clint Eastwood” vividly, while Top 40 listeners know all about “Feel Good Inc.” and may have even heard “Dare”.  While Gorillaz are far from “mainstream”, they have certainly made a lasting impression on pop culture.

So why am I giving you all this background?  I want you all to remember the good times.  The goofy interviews with the characters, the animated videos, the interactive games and the holograms in the live performances.  Because, believe it or not, Gorillaz are over.

It’s hard to believe that something so innovative, so strong, and so successful is coming to a close, but hardcore Gorillaz fans could see it coming a long way off.  Albarn and Hewlett constantly bickered during the “Escape to Plastic Beach” tour; “Plastic Beach” sales were poor, and the group was slowly being forgotten by most mainstream airwaves.  Damon had scores of other projects going on, and each successive Gorillaz installment after the release of “Plastic Beach” was increasingly lazy.

In a recent interview, Hewlett disclosed that he and Albarn had a “juvenile” falling out and that making any more music together was “unlikely”.

I don’t know how to express my devastation.  Gorillaz were with me all through high school, and helped ease my transition into college.  Their music and their artistic legacy are what inspire me to write my own music and to be unique and individualistic.  Gorillaz have taught me that it’s better to do something that you feel has quality instead of doing what you think everyone will want to listen to.  They taught me that the most powerful weapons and tools in our modern society are words and music, and that these two mediums should never be abused.  And, most importantly of all, they taught me to stand up for what I believe in, even if the majority doesn’t want to hear it.

As you can imagine, I will definitely be feeling the loss of what was truly one of the most innovative groups in music history.  I know there are many other fans out there who feel the same.  I urge you all, as Gorillaz fans, as Damon Albarn disciples, and as music lovers in general, don’t let them be forgotten.  Play their music loud and proud, don your Gorillaz swag, and buy their albums and their biography, “Rise Of The Ogre”.  Celebrate them in death as you never did in life.  If we keep Gorillaz alive in our hearts, they can still fulfill their destiny of making the music industry, and maybe even the world, a better place.

I’m DJ Selenium and my show, Party Rock Shock, is @ 4pm PST every Wednesday!  Follow me on Twitter, Subscribe on Youtube, and join my facebook group!

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