by Audrey Farris ‘25
This February, alternative-rock band Gorillaz released their eighth studio album, Cracker Island, a considerably more mellow effort than their previous albums and also lacking the variety that is commonplace in Gorillaz’ discography. Gorillaz is known for frequent use of featured artists throughout their various albums, and typically they are able to sufficiently incorporate different artists’ sounds or feels. This being said, Gorillaz left much to be desired with the incredibly uniform-sounding Cracker Island.
The album has a prominent guest list, including features from Stevie Nicks, Tame Impala, and Bad Bunny. Unfortunately, the songs with featured artists tend to be the album’s weak points. “Oil” featuring Nicks is full of predictable synth progressions and discordant harmonies between Nicks and Damon Albarn, the band’s lead singer. “Tormenta” featuring Bad Bunny feels out of place and disrupts the little flow the album did have. But by far the biggest letdown was the last song on the album, “Possession Island” featuring Beck, that without Beck would sound exactly the same.
The fact that Gorillaz fails to deliver on their songs with featured artists is surprising, considering that their last album, Song Machine, Season One: Strange Timez was entirely songs with featured artists and is incredible. The main difference between Song Machine and Cracker Island is that the features on Cracker Island barely feel like features, they lack a prominent part or feel from each featured artist.
Though the majority of the album falls flat, there are some highlights. The album’s lead single “Cracker Island” featuring Thundercat is one of the better songs and showcases characteristic Thundercat bass lines throughout the whole song. “New Gold” featuring Tame Impala and Bootie Brown is easily the best song on the album, combining the indie feel of Tame Impala with fitting rap verses from Bootie Brown. It has the familiar, alternative Gorillaz sound that is missing from the rest of the album.
Nothing is more disappointing than a band releasing an album that barely feels like the band, but Cracker Island is a prime example of this. While it doesn’t not sound like Gorillaz, it sounds closer to if someone tried to recreate a Gorillaz-esque album only based on “Melancholy Hill” (a song off of their album Plastic Beach) and seriously failed. Gorillaz has fleshed out their own universe of sound where they could make anything they wanted to, and this time they played it safe, ultimately leading to the downfall of the album. The routine drum beats, chord progressions, and synth patterns, combined with the utterly disappointing feature songs, make Cracker Island into an album not worth writing home about.