Gorillaz’s work has always been hit or miss for me. Some tracks are among the grooviest, wackiest, and most experimental I’ve ever had the pleasure of listening to. Some tracks are a bit too daring, alienating me from wanting to listen to it again. For better and for worse, Cracker Island does not express either of these dualities: it is one of the most homogeneous collections of songs in Gorillaz’s career.
The title track is one of the best on the album. It’s irresistibly catchy due to the interplay between 2-D and Thundercat’s vocals with a tinge of the bizarre reflected in the droning atonal bass. I still cannot decide if the Stevie Nicks feature on “Oil” sounds good to my ears (“the truth” wasn’t the only thing autotuned on this album).
The third track, “Tired Influencer” harps on a topic that, itself, is tired: “It’s a cracked screen world” the song starts as random Siri interjections appear throughout. Insert technological panic and calls to look up from your phone here.
Though I am happy they are still putting out music, it seems like Gorillaz themselves are tired influencers at this point. There is no wow factor or much variety here. Most of the songs on the album have a Soma-like quality to them: it’s easy to space out inside these disco lounge grooves, to be “falling into the bass and drums,” but it is as engaging as mindlessly scrolling on TikTok. The record sounds like Daft Punk’s Discovery if every song sounded like a poppier “Digital Love.”
That isn’t to say there aren’t any standout tracks. “New Gold” is a fun and bouncy track featuring Tame Impala that’s 6/4 time signature adds a bit of spice to the listening experience. (Some have criticized Bootie Brown’s rap verses in this. I think it is impressive he can rap in 6/4 time without it sounding painfully awkward.) Bad Bunny’s feature on “Tormenta” breaks up the monotony as well. Who knew Gorillaz would have a song in Spanish!
You may have noticed a pattern in the songs I take away from the record: all of them have a feature that makes it more interesting than the tracks without them. It seems like the record needed more time in the oven, especially given that it is abnormally brief at 37 minutes long, they're shortest to date. I wanted to feel more emotions listening to this, even if a song was so wacky it turned me off. At least that would have been memorable. Instead, as I look at the track list, I have trouble remembering what most of the songs even sound like because they all blend together. “Nothing more to say.”