As a band supposedly made up of cartoon characters, Gorillaz could theoretically do anything: record in outer space; make fish-toothed hip-hop beats; relive the lambada: an unlimited horizon. Which makes it a bit frustrating that in cookie island, his eighth studio album, Damon Albarn and co. do something that is out of the ordinary. This is apparently the group’s Los Angeles album, inspired by a relocation to Silver Lake, and it has a handful of very Californian guests in the form of Stevie Nicks, Thundercat and Pharcyde’s Bootie Brown. However, overwhelmingly cookie island leans into classic Gorillaz tropes: a handful of flashy features, a dash of hip-hop, a dash of dub, and big helpings of Damon Albarn’s big-hearted melodies to bathe the record in hazy sunshine. Classic, at least, is one way of putting it. Routine it would be another
There are bright spots: “Silent Running” and “Skinny Ape” are among the best songs Albarn has written in the last decade, sporting those lost little pop star vocal performances that he does better than anyone. The verse melody of “Skinny Ape,” in particular, is classic, luscious and downcast in a wonderfully vulnerable package.
And the guest list is elite, especially considering that Gorillaz have persuaded names like Nicks, Tame Impala, and even Bad Bunny to play second fiddle to a bevy of slightly worn-out animated characters. Nicks’ charming scraping sands down some of the shine of “Oil,” adding a cathartic depth the song doesn’t deserve, while Tame Impala’s Kevin Parker brings a sleepy charm to “New Gold.” Even better is the performance of Gorillaz’s Humanz Choir member Adeleye Omotayo on “Silent Running,” where her perfectly measured voice is a heavenly shade to Albarn’s urban melancholy, a bit like Peven Everett’s show-stealing turn. in 2017 by Gorillaz. single “Strobelite”.
However, in general, the production and songwriting are more “solid”. how “stimulating!” Gorillaz frequently default to mid-tempo beats, bright keyboard lines, guitar and bass. (This is a band, let’s not forget, that invited both the National Orchestra of Arabic Music and the Hypnotic Brass Ensemble to their third album, plastic beach.) The drums sound simultaneously big yet flat, as if subtlety has been sacrificed for impact. The shimmering disco of “Tarantula” is weightlessly understated, utterly enjoyable, and utterly forgettable. Meanwhile, the album’s lyrical concepts—there’s something about two competing cults living next door to each other, combined with grumblings from grandparents about social media excess—feel impossibly convoluted, like a band in desperate need of a narrative. to hold on to.