While Damon Albarn's original band Blur released seven proper albums and many b-sides during each period, many of which were tracks of songs good enough to go on any album, or at least a lesser band's albums. They could have compiled a b-sides compilation solid enough to rival something like Oasis' "The Masterplan", but they never did. Albarn's second major project, Gorillaz, on the other hand have released only 2 proper albums thus far and on their singles haven't released nearly as many fully developed songs for b-sides. Yet it is Gorillaz who have now released a second b-sides collection (or rather 1 G-Sides and 1 D-Sides collection). Whereas the first collection G-Sides featured only a handful of new tracks to go alongside some reworkings and remixes of album tracks (with some difference depending on what continent you purchased the album), the main program of this collection almost entirely features tracks that are distinct from the album (though 2 are early versions of what would become Demon Days' tracks). Many of these tracks may barely be recognizable as Gorillaz to fans who only know their work from the proper LPs, even less so to those who only know the hits. Much of this collection features songs that are more experimental works and groove oriented, though skewed, electro-pop playing with a number of styles and exploring musical territories.
The first track, "68 State" is a fully instrumental groove techno track, a quite good one, that gets the proceedings off to a nice start.
It's followed up nicely by "People" which is another techno-dance track, this time with some repeating verses. "People" develops the beat that would later go on to form the hit single "Dare", but I rather like it better in this form.
"Hongkongaton" follows, and is one of the oddest tracks here, as it starts off with some piano and synth riffs and builds off some rather unintelligible and almost inaudible lyrics, as it builds up with some more elements, it is catchy but on the bizarre end of catchy.
Track 4, "We Are Happy Landfill" is a full fledged song, originally available as a download (that you had to use a crowbar to fetch out of a kitchen cupboard) if you bought the deluxe version of Demon Days. It's a good track and perhaps the song most suited to being a Gorillaz single on this comp.
Track 5 "Hong Kong" is a reworked version of the beautiful song Damon made for the War Child project. It was popularized as the closer for the Gorillaz live performances in Manchester and Harlem, though Damon originally did not intend it to be labeled a Gorillaz track. But as the track stands here in this new recording, it is even more beautiful and easily the centerpiece of this collecton.
"Hong Kong" is followed up with another more mellow track, "Highway" which has a very nice vocal melody built off of a simple bass/handclap beat.
"Rockit" is a simple track with a recognizable Gorillaz groove. It was originally leaked online as a harbinger to note that Gorillaz were at work on a new album, it even has a video which has been playing on the website since 2005 and has already been anthologized on the last Gorillaz dvd.
"Bill Murray" is a loose groove with a couple movements and some repeated lyrics, I suppose it could suit a Bill Murray character in one of his recent movies.
"The Swagga" is a very good track, which is a more developed track lyrically as the song builds in tempo and force from some very simple electro beats, and features Damon yelling "Whoo" in the chorus, so it by all rights should become extremely popular, just like "Song 2" (Whoo hoo!).
"Murdoc is God" has loud guitar and repeats things like the title of the song, probably the most throw away of any track here.
"Spitting Out the Demons" has a reggae-ish vibe which builds nicely into the demo of "Don't Get Lost in Heaven" which has a very happy and loose dancehall feel, you could almost light skank to it.
Things finish up on disc one with the beautiful "Stop the Dams", a really nice way to wrap up the proceedings.
So, there's a lot of nice stuff here that exposes a lot of different angles to Damon's song writing process and the Gorillaz collaboration. Some of the material is very beautiful (Stop the Dams, Hong Kong) and shows Damon near the height of his powers as a singer, other tracks might be better suited to something like Damon's Democrazy album (which the demo for Dirty Harry came out on) as they are roughly formed, but still catchy and at least expose the sort of foundation for some of the Gorillaz sound, behind the scenes glimpses in a way.
Disc two features remixes of all the Demon Days singles, 3 a piece for Dare and Kids With Guns, 1 each for the others. There's a few very good remixes and a couple that are just okay. Dirty Harry is redone in Chinese by other performers, and track 3 is basically a new song built around elements of Kids With Guns that has a rap developed around the kids turning to monsters theme, almost a broadway character sketch of a song. Those tracks might be more or less novelties, but most of the other remixes are quite worth listening to.
Those who pick up the deluxe package will be treated to a nice gift box, a sew-on patch, a set of 4 buttons, a sheet of stickers of the Gorillaz characters and 2 nice art prints, in addition to the nice booklet and both discs.
Well worth the pick up for serious Gorillaz fans, though casual fans will possibly be perplexed. The deluxe set also makes a great gift or collectors item for the true fan.
Now, whether this will be the final release from Gorillaz, or whether there will be future albums, that movie that's been in the works for so long, a soundtrack for it... we'll have to wait and see. With this package, the Gorillaz have both left themselves a lot of directions to go in, or at least a nice document of where they've already explored.