Sunday, October 28, 2007

First impressions of ... Gorillaz's 'D-Sides'

For the two-disc "D-Sides," the boys in Gorillaz have assembled a spectacular array of B-sides, demos and unreleased gems -- their very own "Odds & Sods," if you will.

The album won't be released until Nov. 20, but the Budgeteer recently got its grubby li'l paws on a copy* -- and here's how the story unfolds:

(Disc One)

1. "68 State"
("Feel Good Inc." B-side)
Pretty useless and boring ... in fact, I'm surprised this was even released as a B-side -- let alone used to lead off a much-hyped compilation.

2. "People"
(early version of "Dare")
Pretty similar to "Dare" (obviously), so the first worthy track on this here album.

3. "Hongkongaton"
("Dirty Harry" B-side)
Another throwaway track ... maybe B-sides aren't this group's bag?

4. "We are Happy Landfill"
(Web site-only download)
Goofy fun. Would've fit in nicely on the "Yellow Submarine" soundtrack.

5. "Hong Kong" (new vers.)
("Warchild" contribution)
Some strings were added to this lush -- albeit sleepy -- "Warchild" track/live staple. Definitely out of step for the group behind such fantastical numbers as "Dare" and "Feel Good Inc."

6. "Highway (Under Construction)"
("Dare" B-side)
Another sleepy B-side. Nothing to write home about.

7. "Rockit"
(demo from "Demon Days" sessions)
This demo shows a lot of potential. It's really a shame this wasn't tweaked a little more in the studio and included on "Demon Days."

8. "Bill Murray" (feat. the Bees)
("Feel Good Inc." B-side)
OK, I was wrong earlier: Gorillaz can release decent B-sides. While not upbeat, it's quirky enough to land on a mix tape someday.

9. "The Swagga"
(limited-edition "Demon Days" bonus track)
Things are definitely picking up.

10. "Murdoc is God"
("Dirty Harry" B-side)
Or are they? If "Murdoc is God" is good for anything, it's insufferable noise.

11. "Spitting Out the Demons"
("Feel Good Inc." B-side)
Lush, cinematic and ... funky? This one's all over the place (in a good way).

12. "Don't Get Lost in Heaven" (demo)
Hey, it's like Gorillaz on Mountain Dew! A HA HA

13. "Stop the Dams" (feat. the Sugarcubes' Einar Orn)
("Kids with Guns/El Manana" B-side)
Lo and behold, the lone essential track on "D-Sides." If Radiohead's "No Surprises" (or the Melvins' "Skin Horse," for that matter) has always held a special place in your heart, get ready to run down to your local record store: This is simply a magnificent composition that no collection should be without.

(Disc Two)

1. "Dare" (DFA remix)
When DFA remixes work, they really work (Fischerspooner's "Emerge"); but, when "more cowbell" fails to impress, you get something like this. And, at 12-plus minutes, who do these self-indulgent jokers think they are? Iron Butterfly?!

2. "Feel Good Inc." (Stanton Warriors remix)
Another lengthy, unnecessary (re-)version of a Gorillaz classic....

3. "El Manana" (TTC remix)
This track wasn't on the version of "D-Sides" I received, so I apologize for having nothing to say about it.

4. "Kids with Guns" (Jamie T's "Turns to Monsters" mix)
Almost a complete departure from the original -- actually, it almost sounds as if the ad wizards in Radiohead remixed this thing. (Hint: Not a good thing.)

5. "Dare" (Soulwax remix)
Soulwax delivers the first decent remix of this whole set, with a Felix da Housecat/early Nine Inch Nails vibe.

6. "Kids with Guns" (Hot Chip remix)
Another decent remix. In fact, Hot Chip almost makes you forget about the original for awhile. In its place? A dreamy soundscape that conjures up the end of the night ... right before the lights are flipped back on.

7. "El Manana" (Metronomy remix)
Strange, but its "old world charm" deserves at least one spin.

8. "Dare" (Junior Sanchez remix)
This one is pretty fun. "Dance Dance Revolution," here it comes!

9. "Dirty Harry" (Schtung Chinese New Years remix)


10. "Kids with Guns" (Quiet Village remix)

Militant a la the Clash's "Straight to Hell." Very cool.

THE VERDICT? Save for "Stop the Dams" and a handful of others, "D-Sides" is a release for only the most hardcore of Gorillaz completists. Not what their record label hoped for, I'm sure, but "the suits" perhaps should've seen it coming.

*Mahalo, Virgin!

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