It was a hard blow for Gorillaz fans to sustain when, after their last album The Now Now, the creators of the wildly popular Gorillaz said there would likely not be any more releases from the cartoon band for ten years. We all hoped it was a bluff, and luckily it was. Enter: Song Machine.
Gorillaz wouldn’t be Gorillaz if they didn’t push the limits of media and how their releases are consumed. After all, just the core concept of their being a virtual band is pretty cutting-edge and unprecedented. From the storyline of Gorillaz to how the releases function to the actual music, everything is different and both the fans and the projects progenitors wouldn’t have it any other way.
Song Machine started with a few blips on Gorillaz’s YouTube channel, with an intro song and corresponding visual introducing the new project. There were also random sound bites of conversations between 2-D, Murdoc and the guest artists on the impending “Momentary Bliss,” Slowthai and Slaves. The sound bites, called “Machine Bitez” were utterly random, with 2-D telling Murdoc how he met Slaves in LiDL, becuase of an argument over a Stollen, a phone call with Slaves correcting 2-D that it was Aldi, not LiDL, et cetera. The song itself, however, was definitely not random.
“Momentary Bliss” introduced a larger world to the extraordinary rap talents of Slowthai and gave a beautiful positive message about loving oneself to fix the planet. The corresponding video, however, was also extraordinary as it saw the cartoon world of the Gorillaz merged with the actual artists, including mastermind Damon Albarn, and management, engineers and producers creating the track in a studio in London. This technology is not necessarily new, dating all the way back to 1945, but the idea of having the real life artists working alongside the virtual band is new to the Gorillaz world and it definitely got a reaction.
As the series moves on, Song Machine has also come to include “live” #murdocdebunks Twitter series where the group’s megalomaniac, satanist bass player responds to all the ensuing “gossip” comments from Gorillaz fans about what was going on in the video. From the start, Gorillaz canon heads have worked hard to interpret and figure out the truth of the Gorillaz story and it’s to a level where people treat it like a real world. Immediately after Murdoc’s tweet session, fans took to the internet with comments like “oh, like Murdoc would tell us what the real truth is. Can’t trust anything he says.” That’s literally true since he’s a cartoon, but it’s one more way the Gorillaz machine has been able to optimize interaction with its fanbase.
Right then, here’s a handful of truth grenades. Don’t say I never give you anything… #MomentaryBliss
— Murdoc Niccals (@MurdocGorillaz) February 6, 2020
“Desole,” the second track in the Song Machine series, came out a little over a week ago and introduced the pop world to another extraordinary talent, Fatoumata Diawara. Mostly sung in French, it’s dulcet yet sad tones along with Diawara’s unique and passionate voice made this one an instant banger. Its video, once again, superimposed the Gorillaz world over the real world but this time it was less clinical. Both videos, unsurprisingly, are directed by Gorillaz animation mastermind Jamie Hewlett and this one has a definitively more “Gorillaz” vibe; it’s cryptic, peaceful and ominous all at once.
“Desole” is where those fans who wish they lived in the Gorillaz world are really getting jealous (your humble author might be among those envious fans) as it places 2-D in a boat on Italy’s Lake Como with Albarn and Diawara, boating through the black water on a hazy day while shadow monsters watch from the sky. Could this be a nod to the merging of the worlds? Maybe.
The messages are always mixed and multi-layered and mixed in Gorillaz videos so that’s one thing that hasn’t changed: there’s about a thousand ways to interpret these songs, their videos and where the two meet. Some fans hold on to the canon and want to know the exact details of the story: was Murdoc shaking and crying in “Desole” because he was going through withdrawals from the poison he drank in “Momentary Bliss”? for example.
Others fans find a way to apply it to a political statement; after all, Albarn himself said recently that music needs to be more political. The monsters and helicopters looming in “Desole” could represent all the problems in the world looming over the boaters while they take their own “Momentary Bliss” or respite from it all. Still others just love the whole Gorillaz world and are happy to vibe and feel with it. With the emotional and personal nature of every song and video, it’s certainly easy enough to just get swept up in it.
The Gorillaz world seems to be just as fraught as ours, but at least it’s a bit more honest and a bit cooler. Song Machine is bringing those worlds together in an even more maddening way, where fans can feel like they can truly reach out and touch it. Is the next step VR maybe? Could some of us actually live in the Gorillaz world? Never say never, given the current advances and blurring of real and digital lines, and if anyone could do it, it would be Gorillaz. In the meantime, Song Machine is here so fans can interact and experience their beloved totems even more. A YouTube commenter Kelsey Joseph’s words about “Desole” sum it up perfectly:
Monsters in the sky: Vibing
No News yet on when the next Song Machine track will be out but be sure to follow Murdoc on Twitter for the latest hilarious debunks @murdocgorillaz, keep a hawk eye on the Gorillaz YouTube and other media for more news and of course check back here at IMP for more monkey musings on all things Gorillaz.