Gorillaz, for those who may not know, is the virtual band created by Damon Albarn of Blur fame and Jamie Hewlett of Tank Girl fame back in 1998. Composed of 2-D Murdoc, Noodle, and Russel, the quartet has shelled out two albums to date – with number three on the way – and a slew of singles, including “Clint Eastwood” or “Feel Good Inc”. Sound familiar? Well, if not, well done. You’ve managed to completely isolate yourself from any and all sort of societal contact from the years 2000-2005.
Anyhow, ahead of the release of its yet-to-be-titled third LP, Gorillaz has teamed up with Ceri Levy for Bananaz, a brand new documentary designed to reacquaint the world with the project and offer a glimpse into the lives of Albarn and Hewlett; from the initial creation of Gorillaz to their time in the studio, process for developing of songs, live performances, and daily life outside the box – for those not familiar with their personalities, you’re in for a treat.
Yesterday, Consequence of Sound has an opportunity to check out an early screening of the film, and as always, we’re here to detail the goods.
If one were to take away anything from the film it is the fact that Albarn and Hewlett really have a great bond, which is certainly reassuring for anyone who has doubt as to Gorillaz’s future. This relationship is reflected throughout the film, more often than note in the pranks and jokes the two pull on one another – Hewlett tends to be more upfront, whereas Albarn is a much quieter jokester. In fact, Albarn’s charm is almost disarming, whether it’s him getting sick right before performances, him on the john, or him trying to successfully pull of a cigarette trick, it’s fun and a good glimpse into the man behind it all.
What’s most notable about the band itself, as one will discover from watching Bananaz, is the amount of collaboration actually involved. It truly isn’t just Hetwlett and Albarn; Del tha Funkee Homosapien, Dan the Automator, De La Soul, Dangermouse, Junior Dan, are just a few of the countless contributors who have lent their talents over the years. Plus, it’s compelling to watch how Albarn and Hewlett work in such a seeming chaotic rotation.
But, studio and live performances are not the only things the guys have to deal with. Interviews with seemingly inane questions, the rigors of constant hours just answering questions, award show appearances, pressure of live performances and the scope of the band itself, this documentary really covers it all.
As for our favorite parts?
For one, the humorous scenes interlaced throughout. We won’t ruin anything, but moments like the one capturing Hewlett’s ongoing “thing” with Justin Timberlake (or Timberland as he originally called him) on the red carpet during the MTV Music Awards and a cheering mixup with Destiny’s Child had us chuckling.
Lots of cool tidbits are to be had as well. D12, the rap group closely associated with Eminem, has a cameo too, as they collaborate on a song about September 11th. Albarn is thoroughly engaged on the qualities the rapping has, it is powerful and real, and Albarn feels that this sound is something he wants to use in later recordings. Hewlett also has a great moment in regards to NME, which is full of words needed to be bleeped out.
At times, the documentary is a whirlwind, as things happen rapidly, and situations occur without much context. This could work well for diehard fans, who know the ins and outs of the Gorillaz. But for the casual fan, it would have been well served to provide some context about what it was like to plan these shows. Another thing lacking is the work involved in the animation of the band. We get plenty of scenes with the animators, but they do not delve into the intricate work or the heavy workload and tight deadlines. The live performances are great to watch, however, as fans are exposed to the band working behind the screen. It’s interesting to see them put so much energy into the set, even though they will never be seen.
For diehards and casuals, Bananaz is a documentary that provides a great glimpse into the work behind the mysterious, animated band. There are plenty of surprises at hand and some excellent scenes, such as Albarn squirming under pressure from a choir leader at the Apollo Theater. Just around an hour, the time moves by quickly and covers the entire existence of the Gorillaz, including its five night stint at the Apollo Theater.
All that being say it’s definitely worth checking out on April 20th, when it premieres on Babelgum.com; the Flash-driven website will be streaming it for free for a month. The film will also be shown in full, followed by a Q&A with Ceri Levy, at the Regent Street Apple Store in London on Thursday April 2, from 6.30pm. A physical DVD release of Bananaz is planned for June 1st.