While the debut Gorillaz LP perfectly set the template in 2001, Demon Days, the sophomore album from Damon Albarn’s electronic/indie/hip-hop project, is still arguably their best. It took the format offered up on Gorillaz and streamlined it, while still pushing the sound of the collaborative effort in new and exciting directions.
To whit: there’s a lot of guitar hidden in the mix, but the bounce is what really drives the record. “Kids With Guns” and “O Green World” are based around simple riffs, but the head-nodding, driving rhythms push the album forward with every spin. And, as wonderful as Del the Funky Homo Sapien was on the band’s breakthrough single, “Clint Eastwood,” De La Soul so perfectly kill it on “Feel Good, Inc.” that it’s arguably Gorillaz’s finest hour.
There’s not a lot of reason to go on about an album which has been out for over a decade and sold something like 8 million copies. You’re familiar with this if you’re a music fan, but if you’ve somehow managed to avoid the worldwide Gorillaz phenomenon, a brief summary is that this is a musical group which performs behind the aegis of an animated quartet, and if you like Blur, soul music, a hint of reggae, hip-hop, and an array of the most diverse and talented guest stars, you’ll find something to like here, if not deeply love.
I’ve probably listened to Demon Days at least once a week since it was first released in 2005, and thanks to this reissue, I’ve found myself discovering that I didn’t really know the album as well as I thought. It’s a musical project which has continuously revealed different aspects, whether being absorbed through headphones or broadcast via the biggest, loudest speakers at hand. But this is another level.
The division between sides and LPs brings out new elements. Hearing the likes of “El Mañana,” with its subtle strings ending side B, and then dropping the needle on the punishing bass that underlays “Every Planet We Reach Is Dead” will blow your head clean off. It’s an amazing change in dynamics, made all the more astonishing by the physical switch between discs, worlds. I really wish the track lengths had allowed “Fire Coming Out of the Monkey’s Head” to have started off side D for pure amazement’s sake, but it’s a minor quibble.
It’s a shame that more folks won’t have access to this release, because Gorillaz’s Demon Days, always a favorite, really does shine ever so brightly on this vinyl reissue. The secondary market prices are absolutely insane at this point, so let’s hope Parlophone ends up bringing this to the masses at a later date. It’s the sort of album which really could mark a point of pride in every record collection.
The half-speed mastering really lets this album breathe. Demon Days is crammed with sounds on each and every track, but the bigger grooves let the individual elements come through in a way I’ve never before experienced. “November Has Come” is so sparse as to be austere at its beginning, for instance. However, the perfect example comes at the start of side B. “Dirty Harry” has two different kinds of keys, a children’s choir, handclaps, strings, drums, and more, but what was before almost claustrophobically dense, now feels like this breathtaking expanse. The low end will rattle your house, but the various swirling strings effortlessly float on top. It’s taking the sounds from a basement club to a massive arena, with no loss of impact.
Housed in a gatefold sleeve, Demon Days reproduces much of the artwork from the original release: the cover art, the artwork for each song in the gatefold, and the band profile images on each side of the printed inner sleeves. The transparent red vinyl looks killer, and its brightness really sets off the darkness of much of the artwork.
There is a bonus sheet of stickers featuring those profile pictures as a bonus, but they’re stickers like you’d buy to stick on your notebooks in elementary school, rather than something more robust like vinyl. Ariel Roman’s art print is a dark interpretation of “Fire Coming Out of the Monkey’s Head,” as seen through a punk rock flyer filter. It’s macabre, and you can almost hear Dennis Hopper’s narration as you look at it. The red vinyl looks nice, and it’s just enough on the darker side to really tie in with the mood of the album.
Once again, the cocktail recipe requires a very specific booze to make it. In this case, it’s Owl’s Brew Wicked Green, “a blend of green tea, agave, lemon & lime juice and habanero pepper juice.” There’s also the necessity of purchasing Laguna Salt Co. lemon flake sea salt, so once again, I’ve not made the cocktail, nor will I ever, because those specific ingredients run $15 combined.
“Demon Days” was available as the April Record of the Month through Vinyl Me, Please, and is now sold out. The May Record of the Month will be Fiona Apple’s “Tidal,” and you can sign up for a VMP membership here.