Gorillaz band discography album

We reviewed every Gorillaz album ahead of tonight’s Bell Centre show

Damon Albarn’s other band, a cartoon creation brought to life by Jamie Hewlett and a series of high-profile guest stars, is seven albums deep into their discography — here’s how each of them stack up.

I don’t think my taste in music would be nearly as diverse as it is now if I’d never discovered Gorillaz. The idea of Damon Albarn — he of Blur and Britpop fame — forming a completely fictional cartoon band alongside Tank Girl co-creator Jamie Hewlett, building an entire universe and lore around its four members (2-D, Noodle, Murdoc and Russel), rounding up high-profile guest stars to help that fictional band come to life, and experiencing massive worldwide success would sound completely bonkers at first glance. And yet, Albarn’s managed to pull all of that off and more, stretching his own creative boundaries to their limits and making extremely well-crafted tunes while doing it.

With tonight’s headlining show at the Bell Centre being a teaser of sorts for the band’s forthcoming album Cracker Island (due out in Feb. 2023), I’ve decided to review each studio album in the band’s discography to date.

Hop in the Geep and fasten your seatbelt — you’re in for a wild ride!

Gorillaz (2001)

The self-titled debut Gorillaz album is very much the sound of Albarn trying to pin down a musical identity for the project. Trip hop, dub, rap and garage rock can be heard at various points, and for the most part, it still holds up quite nicely. “Clint Eastwood” remains the band’s signature tune, and still sounds incredibly fresh more than two decades later. Even if the sequencing can feel chaotic, and the use of turntables on certain tracks very of-its-time (the album came out when nü metal was still a hugely successful genre), this genre-bending album sets the tone for even more sonically omnivorous Gorillaz projects to come. 8.5/10 (Trial Tracks: “Clint Eastwood,” “Tomorrow Comes Today,” “Rock the House”)

Demon Days (2005)

Gorillaz Demon Days review discography album

Gorillaz’ second album is bigger, bolder, and more challenging and fully-realized than its predecessor. Albarn takes the genre-bending template set by the band’s debut, and builds on it further, moulding it into something even richer and more kaleidoscopic in sound and scope. This time, we hear traces of David Bowie (“O Green World”), funk (“Dirty Harry”), disco-y electropop (“DARE”), psychedelia (“Kids With Guns”) and even gospel (“Don’t Get Lost in Heaven” and the subsequent title track). Oh, and the late, great MF Doom delivers an effortlessly cool performance on “November Has Come”. Demon Days is the Gorillaz album that most deftly and craftily marries an ocean’s worth of ideas with cohesive songs centred around stirring musical backdrops—and remains their best full-length to date. 9.5/10 (Trial Tracks: Feel Good Inc, Dirty Harry, El Mañana, DARE)

Plastic Beach (2010)

Gorillaz Plastic Beach review dsicography

You know you’re in for a treat when it’s Snoop Dogg introducing you to the vast, vibrant world of the Plastic Beach. Gorillaz’ third LP is just as eager to smash conventional perceptions of genre as their first two, but there’s also some damn good pop songwriting on this thing—“On Melancholy Hill” in particular being perhaps the most pristinely-written pop tune in Gorillaz’s history. This concept album also makes excellent use of its guest stars, notably De La Soul on “Superfast Jellyfish”, Mos Def and Bobby Womack on “Stylo”, and especially Little Dragon on “Empire Ants”. Between its lush production value, fascinating world-building, and airtight songwriting, Plastic Beach stands out as—ironically enough—the most sonically colourful album this cartoon band has made. 9/10 (Trial Tracks: On Melancholy Hill, Rhinestone Eyes, Stylo, Empire Ants)

The Fall (2010)

Recorded almost entirely on an iPad within only a month whilst touring Plastic Beach, this album is a fun little side project for Albarn and co, but nothing more. Instead of the rich, detailed soundscapes we hear on Plastic Beach, The Fall is much more simplistic and subdued while also being shorter and decidedly more experimental than previous Gorillaz albums. “Revolving Doors” and “Hillbilly Man” are strong tunes even if more low-key than we’re used to hearing, and opening track “Phoner to Arizona” was even recorded in Montreal during Gorillaz’ Bell Centre stop on that tour. Otherwise, The Fall isn’t one of Gorillaz’ most vital projects, and definitely not one new listeners should start with. 6/10 (Trial Tracks: Hillbilly Man, Revolving Doors, *finish*)

Humanz (2017)

This is where the Geep starts to swerve out of control a little bit. Humanz is packed to the brim with ideas, strong political overtones (the album was released three months after Trump was sworn in as U.S. President), and big-name guest stars, but the end result feels messy, overproduced, and less focused than previous Gorillaz albums. There’s still plenty to like about the LP: Jamaican dancehall star Popcaan has a wonderfully weird turn on “Saturnz Barz”, Kelela’s voice fits perfectly on “Submission” (even if Danny Brown’s doesn’t), “Busted and Blue” is a genuinely haunting ballad, and “Andromeda” is one of Gorillaz’ most gorgeous singles to date. As a front-to-back listen, however, Humanz is dense and overwhelming, and not always in a good way. 7/10 (Trial Tracks: “Andromeda, Saturnz Barz, Strobelite)

The Now Now (2018)

Given the less-than-enthusiastic fan response to Humanz after a seven-year wait for a new Gorillaz album, it’d be hard to blame Damon Albarn for wanting to rush another one out as quickly as he could. The Now Now is a far more concise project than its predecessor, at only 11 tracks and 41 minutes in length. It’s not among the band’s stronger LPs, and mostly eschews guest stars in favour of Albarn’s own voice. But The Now Now still boasts the summery opener “Humility” (whose video famously stars Jack Black), the spacey disco-funk instrumental “Lake Zurich”, and psychedelic acoustic closer “Souk Eye”. Oh, and Snoop shows up once more on “Hollywood”. 7.5/10 (Trial Tracks: “Humility,” “Lake Zurich, “Souk Eye”)

Song Machine, Season One: Strange Timez (2020)

This album feels far more like a mixtape rather than a proper Gorillaz LP, especially as literally each song features a guest artist. Albarn goes absolutely ham as far as that goes, too: Beck, Robert Smith, Elton John, St. Vincent, Skepta, ScHoolboy Q, JPEGMAFIA and slowthai are just a handful of the artists we hear on this LP. Even though the production is neither as loud nor as bombastic as Humanz, Strange Timez is still a bit too inconsistent to truly be considered within the pantheon of great Gorillaz albums. Regardless, it’s a fun little experiment in how Albarn can mesh creatively with artists from vastly different musical backgrounds, and tracks like “Aries” and “Désolé” (the latter featuring Malian songstress Fatoumata Diawara) are especially worth a listen. 8/10 (Trial Tracks: “Aries,” “Strange Timez,” “Momentary Bliss,” “Désolé”)

Gorillaz perform at the Bell Centre (1909 Avenue des Canadiens de Montréal) with openers EarthGang on Saturday, Oct. 8, 7:30 p.m., $63–$226

For more Montreal music coverage, please visit the Music section.