8 months ago
Gorillaz are the perfect example of a band that was before its time—even before being before its time was possible.
Founded by Brit-pop genius Damon Albarn—who launched ’90s English hitmakers Blur (Americans remember them for the infectious anthem “Song 2“)—and comic book artist Jamie Hewlett (he of Tank Girl fame), the band was introduced to the public at the dawn of the millennium as a four-piece “virtual band” of animated characters (i.e. cartoons).
Of course, lead vocals were “voiced” by Albarn, with a cast of characters from the indie and hip-hop worlds backing him up. Mind you, this was long before the big social media and digital video revolutions, so fans really had to take Albarn and Hewett’s work at face value. (Live shows were always multimedia events, with the cartoon characters featured on onstage screens, while the physical members played and sang.)
In 2001, the “band” dropped its self-titled debut, which became a hit on both sides of the Atlantic—ironically, something that Albarn’s non-virtual band couldn’t even accomplish—with a lead single, “Clint Eastwood” hitting No. 3 on the U.S. charts (see video above). All with no real members of the band save for Albarn.
Sixteen years and three more albums later, the virtual band has a sixth album, Humanz, out on April 28. Listen to their latest single, “Let Me Out,” featuring in-the-flesh guest stars Pusha T and Mavis Staples.
—Will Levith for RealClearLife