I'm 20: Gorillaz, GORILLAZ

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Friday, March 26, 2021
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Gorillaz, GORILLAZ

Damon Albarn and Jamie Hewlett were bored. The lead singer of Brit-pop icons Blur and the Tank Girl illustrator respectively were living in a London flat together in the late '90s, couch-locked in front of cable TV, when inspiration struck.

"One day, we were home watching MTV with our eyes just kind of glazed,' Hewlett recalled to WIRED in 2005. "Because if you watch MTV for too long, it's a bit like hell - there's nothing of substance there. So we got this idea for a cartoon band, something that would be a comment on that."

"We're the generation whose stars come from Pop Idol and celebrity-wrestling shows," Albarn added. "And it's all a bit like a cartoon, really."

Corralling an inspired cast of collaborators including Dan the Automator, Tina Weymouth and Chris Franz of Talking Heads/Tom Tom Club, Del the Funkee Homosapien and Ibrahim Ferrar among them, Hewlett and Albarn dreamed up Gorillaz, the debut album by the "cartoon band" of the same name.

Defying genre while traversing a panorama of sounds including dub, hip-hop, post-punk and so many more, the "band" of Murdoc, Noodle, Russel Hobbs and 2-D emerged at the dawn of the millennium like a beacon of animated hope to inspire a new generation of heads.

The album's lead single, "Clint Eastwood," slammed together the loping groove of a forgotten spaghetti western with a hip-hop beat, with Del the Funkee Homosapien providing the apocalyptic rap. Gorillaz generated enough heat across alt-rock radio for "Clint Eastwood" to hit the Hot 100, peaking at #57 over the week of September 22, 2001. The album was a genuine hit, climbing all the way to #14 on the Billboard 200 over the same week. The #1 record in the country at the time: System of a Down's Toxicity.

Twenty years later, and Hewlett and Albarn are celebrating two decades of the Gorillaz debut with slew of activity, most notably upcoming reissues of the band's album discography. Lots of bonus material is promised: "The attic of Kong Studios is a virtual treasure trove of Gorillaz ephemera, a giant biscuit tin of early ideas, deep dive musical moments, demos, early drawings and never-before-seen-or-heard Gorillaz memories," according to a press statement. "Murdoc Niccals, inspired by his hero Marie Kondo, will tackle that attic with a promise to spark joy in the hearts of fans around the world with a very special physical release featuring an abundance of declassified gems."

Gorillaz also promise a new collection of wares from the band's clothing line, G Foot, a fresh series of vinyl toys, and yes, a series of NFT-based collectibles, produced in conjunction with Superplastic.

"I'm exhausted. [Twenty] years is a long time to be top of your game and let's be clear here, it's a one man gig keeping this show on the road," the band's frontman, Murdoc, groaned in customary fashion via press release. "A lot of names get bandied about, a lot of pretenders to the throne, one or two in particular...But there is only one Murdoc Niccals. As an ex of mine once said, it's hard to be a diamond in a rhinestone world."