**Disclaimer: this article contains a spoiler about the end of the new Song Machine video from Gorillaz, so watch it before you read!**
So far in the Song Machine series, the videos have been themed around studio work and blending the Gorillaz characters with the real band and recording process. In both the first and second episodes, – “Momentary Bliss” and “Desole, respectively – it’s mostly the combined bands chilling in the new Kong Studios location, which seems to be on a high street somewhere in England (we later find out it travels with the band to wherever they are). There are only minor flecks of a story, mostly surrounding Murdoc. Murdoc testing poison (he later claimed it was Echinacea on Twitter) on both himself and Damon Albarn in “Momentary Bliss”, Murdoc either hung over, crying, poisoned or all three in “Desole,” et cetera.
Despite just those wisps of a storyline, fans speculated wildly on social media about what, exactly, Murdoc was doing. It seems with the newest Song Machine video for the song “Aries”, fans got their answer. Most knew there was something fishy right away in the teaser, which showed Murdoc on the back of a motorcycle driven by 2D (most fans know that would never normally happen), with 2D wearing his characteristically blissed-out maw while Murdoc is looking sinister in the background as the song progresses. But Murdoc always looks sinister, right?
Also in the teaser is Noodle texting someone (we find out later it’s Russel), saying she’s worried about 2D so fans knew something was up just from that 26-second clip. With the video out today, we find by the end that just as Russel is catching up to the Odd Couple on the motorbike, Murdoc is about to stab 2D with a syringe full of what is presumably the same concoction he’s had in the first two videos. The video cuts off right before the actual act.
Shortly after the video went up on YouTube, an Instagram post shows that Murdoc was successful: 2D has a puncture wound in his belly that he’s showing off to the “camera” and Russel is in the background threatening to beat up Murdoc, who kneels next to an empty syringe. Noodle, ever-ambivalent about how to handle the boys, is trying to pull the giant Russel off f Murdoc. Is the damage already done? We may find out in the next Song Machine installment.
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One more thing to note about the “Aries” video is the way the worlds are melded this time: it’s almost exactly opposite to the first two tracks on Song Machine. Rather than a sort of seamless narrative that takes place in our 3D world with lashings of the Gorillaz world, the “Aries” backdrop looks to be a colorized negative video reel of a city in the Middle East. Also, at one point the “graphics” blip off and viewers see that Murdoc and 2D are really just on a motorbike in front of a green screen. It’s a clear message to fans that the narrative they’re so desperate to follow is not only just fantasy to the audience, but it’s also not real to the characters. It makes one wonder, how far back does that go? Has the whole Gorillaz canon been a performance by the Gorillaz themselves? To the current story, did Murdoc even really poison 2D? It’s like Inception but at Gorillaz level, which means it’ll be even more of a mindjob.
The actual song “Aries” features the legendary Peter Hook, who is a founding member of both Joy Division and New Order. He’s known for playing melodies on the high strings of the bass guitar, giving those two bands their unique sounds. While we don’t see Hook in the video, the track opens with a bass-driven melody that is most definitely in the style of Hook, so it’s a good assumption that’s where he contributed. The track is sort of built around this melody, also very New Order-influenced: 80s indie wave.
Singer, songwriter and drummer Georgia also contributed to the track but it’s a bit unclear where her contribution is. It’s likely in both the drums in the chorus and some of the phrase transitions, as they sound separate from the main programmed drum track. The lyrics of the song are more allusions to the realities of the Gorillaz story, and also perhaps Albarn’s own feelings of being a literal “song machine”. After all, with all these layers or reality, art and music he and his team have built up, who knows the real anyone at this point?
I’m a model that is uncomplicated
You can play a happy tune on me, but don’t turn me off
‘Cause then I am silenced
There also seems to be a nod to the current times at the moment but that may be a coincidence. At the end of the video, however, there’s a little message from 2D about staying inside and washing hands in the face of the current pandemic, so if Albarn and friends didn’t mean for “Aries” to be about the Coronavirus, the song is eerily prophetic and they’re certainly wanting to get a message across now.
I’m looking out at a volcano
Trying to read the world today and see where you’re at
I’ll never do that…
I’m standing on a beach in the distance
And even though you’re far away, can you see my red light?
It’s waiting to turn green
‘Cause I feel so isolated without you
I can’t play a happy tune on my own, so stay by my side
High or low tide
So, as always, there’s a lot to unpack with Gorillaz newest Song Machine offering. There’s still more, however, in the form of a post on Instagram and a hashtag #GetlostwithGorillaz attached to it, announcing that stories from each of the Gorillaz characters will be forthcoming in their own words and in “real time.” Maybe we’ll find out the narrative of Song Machine from the perspective of each of the characters rather than just Murdoc, so canon junkies will soon rejoice over that little change.
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So no matter what side of Gorillaz you’re into: the narrative or the music, the political or the personal, there’s lots to do with this new Song Machine offering. More ways to interact and experience Gorillaz and more realities to uncover; the Gorillaz media machine is certainly chugging along as well.
We’ll leave you with our favorite comment on the “Aries” video from YouTube, from user Frozen Star:
Me: Cool, Murdoc is happy again.
Murdoc pulls out syringe