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[Off The Record]
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This all-star, one-time-only, celebrity-studded album collaboration is indie-rap producer Dan " the Automator " Nakamura’s third concept record in as many years. And when the official line on it — that Gorillaz are " the world’s first virtual band " — began to leak out a few months ago, it sounded as if the Bay Area beathead might finally have crossed the line from overlooked genius to overbooked hack. The reality is reassuring: Gorillaz are a real band, or at least a loose conglomeration of artists helmed by a hip-hop producer (the Automator) and a Brit-pop singer (Damon Albarn of Blur), with frequent visits from turntablist wunderkind Kid Koala, Oakland oddball MC Del the Funky Homosapien, and an assortment of their jet-setting friends. Together, they’ve produced an amusing dub-rock oddity that’s packed full of sneaky little melodies and hooky samples, plus enough charm to gloss over the general vacuousness of the lyrics. Albarn goes " ohh-ohhh " a lot, Del steals the show whenever he drops a verse, and Automator adds plenty of minor-key melodica and blunted head-nodding grooves. The self-explanatory " Punk " ups the energy level a notch; " Latin Simone, " featuring Ibrahim Ferrer’s cool pipes, brings it down to a languid, smoky crawl. It’s all good transatlantic, cross-genre fun, though nobody seems to be trying very hard. Next time they should put some elbow grease behind it.


Issue Date: July 5 - 12, 2001

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