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Story outtakes, celebrity confessions and the latest pop culture news in the Bay Area

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I'm a pop music writer for the San Jose Mercury News. I cover pop, hip hop, punk, rock, dance, and ethnic - well, basically everything you can dance to.

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  • Tuesday, May 24, 2005

    "Demon Days" from Gorillaz, and "Be" from Common

    It took me several listens to like the Gorillaz sophomore album "Demon Days." Their first single off their album "Feel Good Inc." was the same way. It wasn't until I saw their slick animated video (click link for the video) and saw how "Feel Good Inc." was paired with an iPod commercial (clink link for commercial), that I started to feel it.

    The virtual hip-hop group's gimmick this time around is that even cartoon bands can be destroyed by success.

    You can feel their hardened soul through the whole album. It's sad. Their debut album hit, "Clint Eastwood," (link has video) had lines like "I'm happy, I'm feeling glad I got sunshine in a bag." But now, in their sophomore album in "Dirty Harry," they sing about "I need a gun to keep myself from harm/ The poor people are burning in the sun/No, they ain't got a chance."

    It feels like success did harm them and kill their joy for music, which was the reason why I liked them in the first place. It's almost like this album was done for therapeutic reasons.

    The DJ changed on this album, from Dan the Automator to Danger Mouse (of Grey Album fame, the mash-up of The Beatle's White Album and Jay-Z's"The Black Album.")

    When I interviewed Danger Mouse after the Grey Album came out, he said that the mash-up was just an attempt to see what was possible, something to show his parents what he could do.

    "I had no control over what happened," says Danger Mouse from his home in LA. "I tried to chill out and do the best I could. It was that serious. It was like a little art project, just a little guy in his bedroom that did something crazy."

    The self-described loner said "I'm happiest when I'm broke. There are less expectations from people around you."

    He aspired to be the "Woody Allen of hip-hop," and had a workaholic mentality, but said "people discovered me way to quickly."

    Maybe it's his heavy heart that made its way into the Gorillaz album that changed their mood.

    But, if you're looking for something way more light-hearted, check out Common's new album "Be." It's beautiful soulful hip-hop. And, like a line from his single "Faithful" is "for the people God moves."


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