I’ve been on a weird nostalgia binge lately. Instead of wallowing in the shallow pleasure of reminiscence though, I’ve been trying to hear my old favorites with fresh ears. What’s new about it? How has my perception changed? Does it still hold up?
For a lot of my music choices past age 18 or so, the answer to that last question is yes more often than not. I present as evidence the first Gorillaz single, Tomorrow Comes Today:
The slow mixture of dub and French pop works wonders, led by that inimitable melodica sound, the unifying tone that was sprinkled over the entire debut album. It’s kind of a magic mixture, especially when you consider that this was on mainstream pop, Top 40 radio stations almost 15 years ago.
When Blur’s Damon Albarn hooked up with Del The Funky Homosapien and cartoonist Jamie Hewlett for a one-off virtual band project starring animated primates, it seemed like a lark, a total gimmick. But then the songs worked, worming their way into the pop lexicon and cresting the cultural zenith for months at a time. The album was a hit, led by infectious summer hip-hop jam Clint Eastwood. If you’re over 25, you probably still remember the lyrics.
The best part of the story is how the “band” came back in 2005, armed to the teeth with pop songcraft taken to the next level. Partnering with producer Danger Mouse this time, Albarn added De La Soul and dropped one of the biggest hits of the 00’s. Feel Good Inc. was iconic not only for its ubiquitous airplay, but for kickstarting the slick series of candy colored Apple advertisements that became pop touchstones on their own right.
I’m saving that part of the story for another post.