REVIEW: Gorillaz – Cracker Island

Cracker Island is the eighth studio album by popular virtual band, Gorillaz. Lead by Damon Albarn of Blur fame, the band originally started out as a trip hop band – combining dusty drum samples and deep bass lines with catchy pop melodies and unique, but well utilised, special guest features. Early hits such as Clint Eastwood and Feel Good Inc made listeners aware that Gorillaz were a band to keep an eye out for, and also that Albarn wasn’t just a one trick pony; he was able to successfully branch out from Blur, making music that catered to a whole different demographic while still being up to standard with the music of his original band.

However, the band’s latest album, Cracker Island, is easily one of the weakest of their whole career. Spanning 10 songs with a 37-minute runtime, many fans were excited to hear the bands follow-up to the success of their previous album Song Machine (2020); with the band finally returning to form after a few subpar releases, many thought it could only be up from there. Unfortunately, they couldn’t be more wrong.

Opening Cracker Island is the title track: a funky danceable track with a solid groove and a deep bassline provided by guest feature Thundercat. While I believe that this is the strongest song within the album, even it has started to wear out its welcome since its initial release a lead single back in June 2022.

Moving on from that we have Oil, featuring Fleetwood Mac’s Stevie Nicks. While this track is alright, with nice instrumentation and a catchy melody, I can’t help but feel that the Stevie Nicks feature that fans have been excited for was heavily underutilised here; I believe that having her play a more prominent role within the track would’ve elevated it from an okay Gorillaz song to a truly great one.

The Tired Influencer is a song I feel captures quite well what the album is going for in terms of general sound – it’s a very sombre song with low tones, only rising slightly at the main chorus. It evidently reflects the title “Influencer” and their exhaustion following the grind that comes with content creation. It’s same, constant beat throughout sounds quite relaxing to me and it ends with voices fading out as the next song opens, potentially evoking ideas of finally getting rest as the song itself lulls you into a state of drowsiness.

A notable track is Silent Running, featuring Adeleye Omotayo. As much as I enjoy the opening of this track, which has a really pretty whistle melody. Even that cannot make up for the chorus of this song, which is trying so hard to be a radio friendly chart topper but the absolute laziness in this attempt makes it completely miss the mark for me.

New Gold really fit the theme of Cracker Island in my opinion, as the repeated beat at the start gave a trance-like feel as the opening vocals began which were really smooth, almost siren-like. Then, when the rapping starts, it’s a smooth transition with the beat and rolls well overall. The contrast between the light and hard vocals between the two featuring artists was quite good and evoked a sense of conflict and harmony at the same time – with them fighting for vocal presence whilst complementing each other’s sound, fitting the “cultish” themes of weirdness and mystery.

I can see Bad Bunny collaboration Tormenta being a miss for most Gorillaz fans, as it comes off as just a standard Bad Bunny song with only a pinch of Cracker Island’s style within it. Personally, I enjoyed it, it had a nice vibe overall with a tropical feel to it as if you’re relaxing on the beach. and I feel that most ,people can just turn their brains off to it and just go along with the music, as you can do with some other Bad Bunny songs. Overall, it comes across as not truly having a narrative that links in with the overall theme, both sonically and lyrically, but as a standalone song it’s enjoyable.

The penultimate track on this album is Skinny Ape, another single released back in 2022. This is one I’m completely on the fence with. The first half of the track is a medium paced electronic pop track that doesn’t do anything remotely interesting and just drags on until we reach the second half of the track; an explosive fast paced section that I think fits the ‘Gorillaz sound’ better than anything else on this album. While I love the second half of this track, I just can’t justify listening to the incredibly dull first half to get there.

Finally, the album closes on Possession Island, a soft acoustic track that whimpers its way to the end. In my opinion, this dull and forgetful track is an awful closer but does a good job of tying the album together; a release that got lost in sticking to overused and conventional ideas in order to appeal to a mass target demographic, but in this, lost all sense of identity and creative decisions that made Gorillaz such a unique and loved band in the first place.

Overall, I found myself feeling up and down with album, ultimately feeling that it didn’t really live up to the expectations that it surrounded it, given that it was following up from Song Machine. I felt like most songs had the potential to be more, while they were mostly enjoyable, they felt half-baked and rushed, as if they were held back from reaching their full potential. However, again, this might be due in part to following on from Song Machine, which I, and many fans, believe to be one of their best albums following Plastic Beach (2010). All in all, while the album may have a few good songs here and there, as a collective album, Cracker Island isn’t standout by any means, especially by Gorillaz’s standard, leaving me and most fans feeling greatly disappointed.

Shakeer Sayani is a first-year Journalism student. His biggest interests are social commentaries and breaking down stereotypes whether they be based on race, gender or sexuality. He also enjoys languages and video games. For book related reviews, find him on Good reads: shaktys, otherwise find him on Instagram: @shak.tys

Feature Image: DIY Magazine

+ posts
%d bloggers like this: