It’s been six years since the virtual band Gorillaz came back to the music world with a vengeance. “Cracker Island,” their newest album, and the fourth one since they ended their hiatus in 2017, shows how much they have evolved musically and lyrically throughout the years.
Music mastermind and creator of Gorillaz, Damon Albarn, hinted at a sequel to the band’s third album, “Plastic Beach” (2010) in a tweet back in October 2020. If “Cracker Island” is the rumored follow-up he should be proud of his accomplishments, especially with the album featuring artists like Stevie Nicks, Tame Impala and Bad Bunny.
Lo and behold, other rumors that circulated in the summer of 2022, which said the album’s theme would revolve around cults, came true too. Each Gorillaz album has a very intricate story behind it, and “Cracker Island” is no exception. In Gorillaz lore, “Cracker Island” is phase seven of the band’s existence. Band members Noodle, 2-D, Murdoc and Russel stayed in Los Angeles for a while during 2022, and Murdoc gained interest in the occult. Later on in the year, he founded the Last Cult and has been advocating for Gorillaz fans to join him ever since.
Becoming the first Gorillaz album to reach number one on UK’s Album Charts since “Demon Days” back in 2005, “Cracker Island” is a side of the band I never expected. The Gorillaz showcase their new sound, using dream-pop and synth, and they are killing it. This album is extremely transcendent and different.
The song “Captain Chicken,” featuring Del the Funky Homosapien, appears on the deluxe version of “Cracker Island” but sounds like it belongs on “Plastic Beach,” as it’s super reminiscent of the year 2010 due to its tech-poppy sounds and drums beats, reminding me of their old song “Sweepstakes.”
Other than “Plastic Beach” being the obvious inspiration for this quirky and funky tune, “Captain Chicken” is the most interesting song on the deluxe version of the album because of how weird and random it is compared to the rest of the songs on the tracklist. But if you listen to the lyrics carefully it is still on theme to what the album is about.
“Captain Chicken, thanks a lot / You’re my deity, you’re my god / Captain Chicken, oh my God / You look jolly, you look hot,” 2-D sings.
It’s a fun, clever song you can enjoy playing over and over. It’s as if you are being sucked into the cult by keeping this song on repeat while singing along with the lyrics.
“Skinny Ape,” the ninth song on the album, went from an acoustic soft opening to a bass-boosted, uplifting, fast-paced, chant-filled chorus, and I’m honestly here for it. Despite the beginning being a little too slow, Albarn’s angelic voice saves it along with the use of a bass drop in the middle of the song that helps speed it up a bit.
“And my intent is to breathe (Ape) / In a new world, don’t be sad for me / I’m a skinny little, skinny little, skinny little, skinny little Ape, ape, ape, ape, ape, ape, ape, ape,” 2-D sings.
“Baby Queen,” the sixth song on the album is a synth-pop, dreamy song based on a real event in Albarn’s career. Back in 1997 when Albarn was a part of the rock band Blur, a Thai princess stage-dived at one of his concerts. He recently had a dream about her.
“I met the princess from Thailand again / She had grown up into a queen / Down in the abyss where the night / Never turns to daylight,” 2-D sings.
When listening to this song for the first time, I got chills all over my body. It sounds like an out-of-body experience: trippy, psychedelic and peaceful. I’ve probably listened to “Baby Queen” more than any other song on the album aside from “Skinny Ape.” It’s a very emotional song that makes the Gorillaz seem more human (since they are fictional characters).
Overall, I really enjoyed “Cracker Island.” With the album being a breath of fresh air for the Gorillaz’s discography with hints of nostalgic sounds from previous albums, it’s exciting to see one of my favorite bands evolve.