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Gorillaz



Has anyone not yet heard the world's first animated band? Gorillaz is a high-profile, high-concept collaboration featuring the talents of celebrated hip hop producer Dan "The Automator" Nakamura, Blur frontman Damon Albarn, Del tha Funkee Homosapien, Cibo Matto frontwoman Miho Hatori, Tom Tom Club/ex-Talking Heads members Tina Weymouth and Chris Frantz, Kid Koala, and even Cuban singer Ibrahim Ferrer (you may know him from The Buena Vista Social Club). But the band's public face is a wacky collection of two-dimensional characters sprung to life from the pen of Jamie Hewlett, the creator of the cult comic book Tank Girl. These are spiky-haired singer 2-D, wacky bad-boy bassist Murdoc, cute-as-a-button Japanese guitarist Noodle, and massive "Farrakhan and Chaka Khan"-influenced hip hop drummer Russel. All involved with the Gorillaz project insist there's no actual correlation between real and cartoon musicians, though 2-D and Noodle bear an uncanny resemblance to Albarn and Hatori.

Now with music this conceptual, you might expect more flash than substance, but happily, that's not the case with Gorillaz. Dan the Automator's skittering, futuristic hip hop production and Albarn's laconic Cockney vocalizing are probably the two most recognizable -- and dominant -- elements in Gorillaz' sprawling blend of hip hop, trip hop, dub reggae, funk, gloomy acoustic pop, and punky Brit-pop. They're surprisingly compatible, but by no means the only presences you feel on the album. Del's smooth vocal flows take center stage on a couple numbers, Hatori asserts herself with her trademark Japanese-accented non sequiturs, and Kid Koala makes the occasional scratch cameo. You get the sense that Dan the Automator is always running the show, but everyone's voice gets heard. Ultimately Gorillaz feels like a wild pastiche of everything considered hip in pop music in 2001, but that's all right, because the experiment is very entertaining, and in the end, highly successful.