Gorillaz – Empire Ants

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The second half of this song was my ringtone for over two years.

That’s pretty much all you need to know about how insanely listenable Empire Ants is.

Gorillaz have been both an open favorite and a hidden pleasure over the years. From their first massive single Clint Eastwood arriving at the tail end of high school, to the height of their acclaim in 2005, appearing on Apple commercials with De La Soul, to their underrated, kaleidoscopic farewell album in 2010, the virtual supergroup occupied a unique space just outside the center of pop culture. They’re one of the few acts to rope in both top 40 lovers and weirdos like myself, projecting crowd pleasing beats with out-there sounds borrowed from dub, hip-hop, techno, and noisy punk. Each of their three major albums struck the zeitgeist in an off-kilter but welcome way.

This song, though. It transcended anything they’d done before, veering off into pure ecstatic revery. I couldn’t handle it. I actually purchased a ringtone – and yes, that was still a thing in 2010. Even weirder is that, despite hearing the intro literally hundreds, if not thousands of times over the couple years I owned that phone, I never got sick of it. I’m smiling right now as I listen again.

I seem to write a reminder like this every few months. It’s good to remember how Gorillaz crafted some of the only welcoming spots on the pop landscape over a decade that stretched from my alienated teenage days to the end of my twenties. Like the very best pop music, they treated fluffy escapism as a true art form.

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