D-Sides [Deluxe]

by: Gorillaz

The Gorillaz B-sides and remixes collection D-Sides just emphasizes that Demon Days could have just as easily been called Damon Days. Even though Damon Albarn worked with collaborators like Danger Mouse on the second Gorillaz album, Albarn was its main sonic architect, and this is made even clearer by the songs that didn't make it onto Demon Days. Where the album honed a paranoid, melancholy -- but always accessible -- vibe, D-Sides is charmingly loose and eclectic; the stoned, rag-tag shuffle of "Don't Get Lost in Heaven (Demo)" is far more engaging, or at least immediate, than the choir and strings-bedecked version that appeared on Demon Days. The layered, doo wop-inspired harmonies and pianos on "Highway (Under Construction)" bear the marks of fiddling around in the studio, but appealingly so -- and that goes double for the new wave/electro ramble "Rockit," on which Albarn makes "blah blah blah" sound almost profound. D-Sides finds him working in styles he couldn't fit on the album (although "Spitting Out the Demons"' dubby gloom comes the closest to Demon Days' final cut): "68 State"'s moody synth noodling could soundtrack an anime dystopia; "Hongkongaton" fuses dub and music hall; and "People" could be the mutant offspring of Britpop and synth pop. While many of D-Sides' tracks are sketches, the full-fledged songs are just as good as what ultimately appeared on Demon Days. "The Swagga," er, swaggers from retro-futuristic pop to messy, freewheeling rock, fulfilling the promise of rowdy snippets like "Murdoc Is God." Albarn also finds room for some surprisingly vulnerable moments; "Hong Kong," with its strings and shamisen, feels like a distant cousin of The Great Escape's "Yuko and Hiro," and "Stop the Dams" closes D-Sides' first disc on a quiet, heartfelt note. For longtime Albarn fans, this part of the collection is a lot of fun -- a trip through his scraps and oddities is still more rewarding than many other artists' magnum opuses. D-Sides' remix disc is, somewhat surprisingly, more focused than the actual Gorillaz B-sides are. It's no surprise that Albarn has gathered an on-point cast of remixers, including Metronomy, Hot Chip, and the DFA, who begin the disc with its best track, a belligerent, percussive version of "Dare" that strips the song down to little more than Shaun Ryder's voice, percussion, and the odd buzzing synth. "Dare" inspired two of the disc's other standouts, a remix by Junior Sanchez and one by Soulwax. While not all of the remixes hit these heights, overall it's a fun set, and a good complement to the eclecticism of D-Sides' first disc. ~ Heather Phares

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