June 6, 2005
ARTe Sfdiian AV
BLUR'S FRONTMAN USES GORIULAZ
FOR SPIRITED EXPERIMENTATION
By Chris Gaerig
Daily Arts Writer
MUSIC R EV IE W ANN*
Damon Albarn - front man and mastermind
of Britpop legend, Blur - is one of the great,
underrated songwriters of
this generation. Whether
it's pumping out snorting G0rilaZ
chart-toppers like "Song Demon Days
2" and "Crazy Beat" or virgin
constructing lush pop land-
scapes like "Country Sad
Ballad Man" and the guitar-driven "M.O.R.," he
never fails to capture the attention and praise of the
public and the rabidbut often accurate British print
media. Albarn's side project, Gorillaz, a troupe of
completely surreal cartoon figures, is no exception.
Combining his quirky pop sensibilities with an
underground appetite, the pure style of Gorillaz is.
unmatched by any group, real or animated.
After a nearly four-year hiatus, Albarnfollows
the pill-powered, press-acclaimed self-titled
album with Demon Days - a collection of spo-
radic pop tracks and hip-hop/dancehall ballads.
Albarn teams up with the Grey Album's infa-
mous DJ Danger Mouse as Danger's bass-heavy
signature is a fantastic addition to Albarn's soft
voice and pop mindset.
Demon Days' "Feel Good Inc." is reminis-
cent of "Clint Eastwood" - the first single
from their debut album. Instead of Del tha Fun-
kee Homosapien's whip-crack flows, Albarn
recruits hip-hop legend De La Soul to add some
lyrical spice. The track is significantly darker
and jumpier than their previous chart topper,
with the bass and percussion-driven groove
interrupted by Albarn's melodic croons before
De La Soul's hyena-like cackles blitz through.
The album does have its share of underground
MCs. MF Doom ("November Has Come") and
Goriliaz are currently feuding with the Smurfs.
Roots Manuva ("All Alone") both deliver stand-
out performances. Doom's unorthodox verses
fit perfectly into the quirky environment, while
Manuva's appearance - his British, bass-heavy
dancehall lines - stands as the most aggressive
track on the album. These two back-to-back tracks
create an ideal separation fromthe melodic pop on
the rest of the album.
Demon Days also harbors the oddest track
Albarn will surely perform, "Fire Coming Out
Of the Monkey's Head." It's a spoken-word
track performed by Dennis Hopper ("Speed")
about the mythical "happy folk" and how
"strange folk" arrive and destroy the "spirit of
the mountain called monkey." Somehow, it all
fits perfectly into the feel of the album.
Albarn misfires several times on Demon Days.
"White Light" is a watered-down dance track with
Albarn's muffled voice and an acoustic guitar
diversion that is uninteresting and much too short.
Demon Days only has one true single, "Feel
Good Inc.," and lacks the power and media push
that it needs to make the album a mainstream hit.
Still, Albarn again flexes artistic muscles that he
wouldbe unable to use on more credible and "seri-
ous" albums. Demon Days will probably follow
suit as another unappreciated release. Sure as hell
shouldn't stop you from listening though.
Common scores with new LP DAILY AaTS.
By Cyril Cordor
Daily Arts Writer
Ever the rap revivalist, Common is now
relying on his past formula that has gen-
music - social Common
passion and raw Be
lyrics - tightly G.0.O.D./Geffen
wrapped in a con-
sistent theme and
melded in the production of Kanye West
and soul hip-hop producer Jay Dee. And
for his taut, skilled look back, Be is a near
West fuses the boom-bap sound of
Resurrection and the soulful instrumen-
tation of Like Water for Chocolate to
create his best work to date. The intro,
"Be," shows that this album is destined
for greatness as West enlists a live bass-
ist and the ubiquitous neo-soul arranger/
keyboardist James Poyser. The upright
bass slowly initiates the opening as Poy-
ser's soulful keys and West's strings rise
to meet Common's voice. Other songs
like "The Food" and "Real People" are
so well-textured with carefully picked
samples and well-blended melodies that
it is clear that West pulled out all the stops
to help build Common's album.
Common is without a doubt a phenom-
enal lyricist, but Be also shows his cre-
ative talent as a performer. If he is given
a track with incisive wah-wah guitars and
hard-knocking drums like on "Chi City,"
Common knows how to deliver crushing
blows. His best performance, however, is
on "Testify." West's drum kicks, congas
and low-riding bassline help to form a
tense atmosphere for Common's elabo-
rate depiction of a courtroom scene: "The
judge yelled for order / Court reporter
making her words shorter / His lawyer
sat next to him."
Whether Common has No l.D., Jay
Dee or Kanye West as producers, he
knows how to use his skill to make
incredible hip hop. Be is evidence that he
doesn't just rhyme over random beats, he
adapts to the music to create art.
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