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Gorillaz:: Demon Days (Album Review)

For their second go-round, Demon Days, the animated collective known as Gorillaz shake things up by replacing producer Dan “The Automator” Nakamura with Danger Mouse, the DJ responsible for last year’s acclaimed Beatles/Jay-Z mashup The Grey Album. The supergroup’s sound and aesthetic don’t change much from their first time out, at least not upon first listen: Demon Days’ intro swipes bits from the Dawn of the Dead soundtrack (2001’s “M1 A1” sampled the score from Day of the Dead) and both albums pay homage to Clint Eastwood (with the political “Dirty Harry,” an old-school hip-hop gem that features lush strings and the Children’s Choir of San Fernandez, and “Clint Eastwood,” respectively). Once again, hip-hop, dub, and electro beats are spliced together with samples and a laundry list of guest artists—Neneh Cherry on “Kids With Guns,” De La Soul on the rousing lead single “Feel Good Inc.,” Ike Turner on “Every Planet We Reach Is Dead,” MF Doom on “November Has Come,” and Roots Manuva and Martina Topley Bird on the stand-out “All Alone”—and Damon Albarn’s vocals are typically disaffected. With the exception of the bouncy new wave pop number “DARE,” Demon Days is decidedly bleaker than its predecessor and—from the opening song, “Last Living Souls,” to the spoken word “Fire Coming Out Of A Monkey’s Head,” performed with deadpan panache by Dennis Hopper—noticeably more apocalyptic. If cartoons truly are a reflection of the times, then Gorillaz, co-created by Tank Girl cartoonist Jamie Hewlett, are unabashedly 2005. (Sal Cinquemani/Slantmag)