7/10: There is a wide range of A-lister collaborators on Gorillaz’ newest project
Cracker Island has been a long time coming. The album, according to Damon Albarn, has been completed since May of 2022, with a long string of singles being released since June. The first single was the title track and opener to the album, an exciting intro that certainly set the scene for what was yet to come. Much like on Plastic Beach, Albarn is using an imaginary setting as a means of a commentary on today’s society, with the “Cracker Island” representing the fragile foundation of society; “a made up paradise/Where the truth was auto-tuned.”
The single that followed, ‘New Gold’, showed off some of the big features, with Tame Impala and Bootie Brown performing on the track. It is one of the grooviest songs off the album and the voices of Albarn, Parker, and Bootie Brown bounce off each other brilliantly, but it is not without the usual gloominess of an Albarn track; “New gold, fool’s gold/Everythin’ will disappear.”
The album does however lean towards the repetitive. Gorillaz have developed a unique and interesting sound of their own, but one that they have mostly failed to expand on in this release. Cracker Island certainly has its fair share of highlights, but it is not without some forgettable tracks such as ‘The Tired Influencer’ and ‘Baby Queen.’
This is the issue that Gorillaz often face. While Albarn is most certainly a brilliant songwriter, Gorillaz’ projects are sometimes let down by a lack of variety. Albarn’s insightful lyrics are often left to do the heavy lifting. That is not at all to say that Cracker Island is without any interesting sound. ‘Skinny Ape,’ begins with an acoustic intro, then moves into a melancholic ballad reminiscent of ‘On Melancholy Hill,’ before switching it up ending with blaring, dancing, synths. It is one of Gorillaz’ best tracks in years and is bound to have you tapping your foot to the sad but danceable melody.
Bad Bunny’s feature, too offers a nice change of direction on the album. The track is quite hard to describe; there is something jazzy about it, something reggae about it, and a bit of rap thrown in there too. Additionally, Bad Bunny’s Spanish rap verses provides a nice contrast to the rest of Cracker Island.
Cracker Island is certainly an enjoyable listen, but it does not hold up to a standard that Gorillaz are most certainly capable of. There is nothing overly poor in this album, just several high points combined with a collection of repetitive and forgettable tracks.