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Friday, 23 March, 2001, 10:55 GMT
Gorillaz pull it off
Gorillaz: Virtual stars but the music is the real thing
By BBC News Online's Ian Youngs

When something comes along that bills itself as a 'virtual' version of something real people can do well enough already, it is natural to be sceptical.

Gorillaz are a virtual band - but unlike virtual newsreaders, virtual actors and virtual sex - they are as good as, if not better than the real thing.

They manage to pull off the musical cross-breeding that rarely works well

That is probably because it is not just a collection of computerised noises put together how a microchip thinks they should be.

It is the name that shields some of the biggest names in innovative music, including Blur singer Damon Albarn and hip-hop hero Dan 'The Automator' Nakamura.

This is a 21st Century supergroup who hide behind the alter egos of the cartoon stars they have created.

Murdoc, 2D, Russel and Noodle are all depicted as streetwise and slightly scary gorillas in drawings, cartoons and computer games.

But as well as Albarn and Nakamura, the people behind the music include Jamie Hewlett, creator of comic book character Tank Girl, as well as Cuban singer Ibrahim Ferrer and rapper Del Tha Funky Homosapien.

The album draws on many musical influences
It is an unlikely combination. The result is a strangely slouched, genre-hopping collection of tunes that draw on the many musical influences - often at the same time - and manage to pull off the musical cross-breeding that rarely works well.

Some of the album sounds like it could have been lifted from the new Blur CD, with Albarn's twisted vocals and discordant guitar.


On other tracks, Dan The Automator brings his hip-hop beats and atmospheric sounds to the fore, succeeding where many have failed in creating a landscape where guitars and beats can live together.

There is the funky chart hit Clint Eastwood, as well as Latin Simone, the exotically doleful tune featuring Ibrahim Ferrer's vocals.

As Portishead laid beats on top of sultry jazz, almost single-handedly creating a new genre, Gorillaz come close to doing something similar.

This may be because the artists involved, especially Albarn, have allowed themselves more creative freedom than they can usually afford by creating their virtual characters to hide behind.

Apart from appearing on radio stations speaking in silly voices, this means that they have been able to do whatever they want without having to live up to any expectations or follow any precedents. They had nothing to lose - and the result is our gain.

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