Sound: The Gorillaz could be considered plenty of genres -- trip-rock, alternative, hip-hop, you name it -- but the band's new release D-Sides makes it very evident that they go way beyond any one title. The 2-CD set includes B-sides and remixes of tracks from 2005's Demon Days, and the results are often both fascinating and enigmatic as was the case with their past remix albums. There aren't a whole lot of your traditional rock songs on D-Sides, and even well known singles like Feel Good Inc and Dare are transformed into a completely different listening experience.
Even if you ignore the fact that they are virtual band, the always-experimental Gorillaz are a hard group to peg. A lot of emphasis has been put on the danceable element in their music, but on D-Sides it is evident that the band is not married to any one style. On the 1st CD, which is dedicated to the B-sides, the instrumental intro 68 State incorporates keyboards to sound like the alarms that warn you to take cover in a bomb shelter. Even though the sections within the song get repeated quite a lot, the instrumental track makes for a sleek introduction to D-Sides. Hongkongaton has an extremely chilled-out vibe with it's hybrid blend of reggae and trip-hop, while the similarly titled Hong Kong doesn't hold back it's Eastern influence and features the exotic sounds of a zither (played by Chen Wei-Man).
While most of the B-sides are the recorded versions a lot of fans could already be acquainted with, Don't Get Lost In Heaven is actually the original demo. There are a lot of bands who include demo versions that don't veer far off from what you've heard in the past, but the D-Sides version definitely has more of a raw feel and no longer includes the prominent female voices you hear on Demon Days. It's really a matter of taste when it comes to which one is better, but it is cool to hear the alternate version.
The remixes that make up the 2nd disk strongly convey the creativity in the Gorillaz and the various DJs helping them out on D-Sides. There are 3 remixed versions of Dare and Kids With Guns, and it's cool to hear the little nuances in each one. If you're not a Gorillaz fan it may be overkill to hear it all, but each remix does seem like a completely new song in itself. Among the interpretations of Dare, the DFA remix is actually the most traditional sounding (if there is such a thing for a remix), the Soulwax Remix has more of an emphasis on synthesizers/samples, and Junior Sanchez actually gives the song the most rock-oriented style of the three. // 8
Lyrics: Just as with the musical arrangements, the lyrical content varies considerably. You get more dance-driven, basic lyrics in the case of Dare, but with a song like Stop The Dams there are deeper themes involved. The lyrics do get repetitive at times during the dance tracks, but the band has proven itself capable of writing more than a few lines in plenty of the songs. // 7
Overall Impression: If we all judged music by creativity and originality, the Gorillaz would be earning perfect scores. Even on a remix album, it feels like you're getting an entirely different experience than with Demon Days. A track like Dirty Harry has a funky-club beat on the original recording, but the version on D-Sides (Schtung Chinese New Year Remix) takes on a completely differently sound when you add in what sounds like authentic Chinese instrumentation (which could very well still just be a keyboard). Even though it can be exhausting to go through both CDs on D-Sides because of the musical ground covered, the Gorillaz have still put out an impressive in-between record before their next studio release. // 8