Gorillaz releases shorter, mellower new album

Written By Rachel Ross, Co Features/A&E Editor

A friend of mine first introduced me to Gorillaz in 2018. I quickly fell for their unique fusion of old and new, blending dreamy 80s synths, funky 70s baselines, and futuristic sonic beats into catchy songs with an admirable sense of meaning and purpose. They had such a consistently modern and fresh sound across their discography that I was miffed to find out they had been around since the early 2000s. However, that only made my appreciation for them surge even further. To have such a sophisticated and accurate finger on the pulse of the future is unbelievable; their sound transcends time and space. 

The band’s new album, “Cracker Island”, released on February 24, expertly extends their legacy, continuing the trend of providing cutting edge, modern sounds, while maintaining a strong sense of the identity that has come to be expected from them. 

The main album features ten tracks, while the deluxe edition features 15. Seeing this sent my first impressions of the album in a good direction. Gorillaz has a tendency to bloat out their albums; they often stuff them with a bunch of somewhat mediocre entries at the end that ultimately blend together into one big song mush. However, “Cracker Island” is the perfect length; it proves that less is more, giving each entry the proper space to make its individual mark. 

Additionally, the organization of these ten tracks is fantastically executed. The album starts off strong with title track, “Cracker Island,” which features Thundercat, before moving into the next strongest song, “Oil” featuring Stevie Nicks. From there continues a great set that expertly showcases the group’s talents, such as their masterful blend of rap and rock with “New Gold” featuring Tame Impala and Bootie Brown, or their skillfully somber ballads with “Possession Island” featuring Beck. 

Other standout tracks include “Tormenta” featuring Bad Bunny, which is deeply infused with Latin influences, and a backing that is almost a twist on cliche elevator music. “Skinny Ape” begins with a bit of a western twang guitar, before launching into more familiar beats and synths. 

Overall, the entries on “Cracker Island” felt more consistently mellow than other Gorillaz albums I’ve heard. There weren’t too many super fast tracks, opting instead for a lot more dreamy, syncopated synth backings.  

Every track feels right in line with the style Gorillaz has established, while still being unique and fresh. The vocals are as strong as ever, as are the beats and backings. 

The featured artists, the inclusion of which is a staple of the Gorillaz style in itself, were extremely well integrated, as per usual. It never feels like they’re sticking someone popular on a track just for the sake of it; there is a clear reason for them being there, apparent in the ways they enhance the song. While I can’t say I’m familiar with every single artist Gorillaz has collaborated with, I appreciate that, for the most part, they keep that artist’s style enacted while also maintaining their own, making for a unique fusion in the track. My favorite of the collaborations on this particular album had to be “Oil” with Stevie Nicks. I’m probably a bit biased in saying that, as I’m most familiar with Stevie Nicks of any of the artists featured, but I thought the song did a really nice, natural job blending her style with Gorillaz; it felt like it made sense for her to be there, rather than her just being shoehorned in because she’s Stevie Nicks. 

For longtime fans of the band, “Cracker Island” is likely not to disappoint; it adds another fantastic ten tracks to their already impressive discography. However, for those interested in alternative music or starting to get into the band, this album is likely to please as well, and certainly deliver a nice sampling of what the group has to offer.