Jake Kennedy dons his two-dimensional WW2 military fatigues and baseball cap to chart the history of the world’s most successful cartoon band
It’s 1998. Not many people feel like partying. British music – mainstream British music at least – has been beleaguered for too long by vacuous pop and TV crossovers. A rock star and a cartoonist, slouched on their sofa in their shared West London flat, drunkenly think they might be able to do something about it. Or rather, they think they’ll kick themselves if they don’t at least try.
“Making a comment on it is very difficult, I think. I think you really have to concern yourself with providing alternatives,” frontman/lynchpin/ organiser Damon Albarn told the Comment Factory in 2008, with reference to the music Gorillaz was formed in reaction to.
Conspirator Jamie Hewlett put it more succinctly in Wired in 2005: “If you watch MTV for too long, it’s a bit like hell.” Hewlett, a visual artist whose staggering, crunchy, colourful work makes up essentially what we ‘see’ as the four-piece, is equally as important in the ethos of Gorillaz, and for dragging Albarn into the domain known as ‘post-Blur’, as a sparring partner and sounding board for musical ideas.
But Gorillaz also brought a new identity for British pop by the time of their first release in 2000. Here was a politically rich, chart-friendly, pastindebted and hugely …
by Jake Kennedy
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