Behold “Stylo”, the latest from Gorillaz new album Plastic Beach. Wow. I discovered the video this morning from a journey of random clicking that began with a Borders Books email coupon. The song itself is a step-closer to the phenomenon of the last 2-3 years where formerly “80’s” style music is performed un-ironically, un-referentially, just unabashedly. As for the video itself, it’s a bit freaky to see the Gorillaz in full 3-D – it reminds me of the collection of real-life toons such as Homer Simpson or Super Mario; we accept them in their disproportionate fake world, but in ours it’s unsettling.
And of course inexplicably, yet awesomely, Bruce Willis appears to stop the band of outlaws once and for all. Why is he in the desert? Why is he above the law? Why can he look at the camera – twice in a row, no less? More questions meant to be unanswered by the mad geniuses behind the Gorillaz.
The two contributing voices (it’s unclear to me whether they are samples or actual new recordings – in 2010, does it matter anymore?) are Mos Def and Bobby Womack. Mos Def, of course, pioneering hip-hop star and member of under-appreciated duo Black Star, is oddly more recognized for his small appearances on uber-popular Chapelle’s Show and his disappointingly-middling film career. Bobby Womack, one of the most stunning soul singers from the early 70’s, was introduced to me through the opening airport-people-mover-sequence of Jackie Brown, performing the chilling “Across 110th Street”, some Philly Soul at it’s finest. Their inclusion on this track makes me appreciate more and more what Gorillaz are doing – bending not only genres of music, but eras of music to create something both retroactive and fresh.
The Gorillaz have been an incredibly intriguing group from the start. Debuting in 2001 with “Clint Eastwood“, few people knew what to make of the industrial/hip-hop/slacker feel of the song paired with the decidedly 2-D animation of the video. It was catchy enough, though didn’t seem to lead to much else. “I think I recognize that guy’s voice…he’s British…wait, isn’t that the dude from Blur?”
But then the story got deeper. We learned that the animated persona’s were the band – how this plays out in a practical sense, no one knows. But that became part of the appeal. Like David Bowie/Ziggy Stardust before them, and Gnarls Barkley to follow, there were no bones made about who actually recorded the music – Damon Albarn (yes, the dude from Blur), Del tha Funkee Homosapien, and a long list of other occasional contributors. Either way, the world’s first and (Guinness-certified) most successful “Virtual Band” were here to stay.
Speaking of Gnarls Barkley, producing-half Danger Mouse continued his post-“Grey Album” rise in 2005 by producing Gorillaz second album “Demon Days.” From Feel Good Inc. to the possible “Clint Eastwood” follow-up Dirty Harry, Gorillaz continued their popularity and stance as one of popular music’s most daring and creative entities.
What do you think of the track? Have you been a fan of Gorillaz for a while, or did one particular song reel you in? Share comments and thoughts below!