Gorillaz: Cracker Island review – bittersweet tunes for anxious times

Damon Albarn

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(Parlophone)
A considerate eighth album blends Damon Albarn’s state-of-the-world considerations with the skills of collaborators from Stevie Nicks to Thundercat

Despite the fact that their eighth LP found this cartoon band decamping to California to work with producer Greg Kurstin, it’s exhausting to not speculate which benighted island the title of this document may seek advice from. As ever, much lore plays out in the band’s videos and Jamie Hewlett’s artwork. Nevertheless it’s clear that a 2023 sense of unease powers this document, with Damon Albarn typically in bittersweet mode, pondering how a deranged cult may take over a fragile society. Acquainted, but inexhaustible, founts of hysteria abound: “Machine assisted, I disappear” Albarn croons affectingly on Silent Running.

This is, simultaneously, a really Albarn-forward, state-of-the-world Gorillaz document, and one full of visitors channelling totally different energies. More outstanding west coasters figure: Afrofuturist funk bassist Thundercat, plus the indefatigable Stevie Nicks, whose guest vocal on Oil is less the “fairylike companion” of the lyrics than a superb, bone-dry counterpoint to Albarn. By some means, even reggaeton party-bringer Dangerous Bunny sounds nuanced on his track, Tormenta. In the meantime, on the knockout New Gold, Pharcyde rapper Bootie Brown returns (alongside Tame Impala) for a delightfully old-school call-back. All of it ends on a considerate thumbs up for the opposable-thumbed, with the pogo-friendly Skinny Ape investing hope in us scrawny simians.

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