In 2002, a New York Times critic said that more cartoon bands would soon follow Gorillaz, popping up — as animator Jamie Hewlett once imagined — like apes from solid ground. But in subsequent years, no such outfit has joined Gorillaz in this fight against the plastic, perfectly coiffed icons who often dominate the charts.
And as this compilation glides from album to album in chronological order, at least before iPad creation The Fall, it reminds us of why Gorillaz remain standing. Beneath this animated critique on celebrity culture is catchy yet compelling pop music that hasn’t aged a bit: the glitziest (“D.A.R.E.”) and the silliest (“Superfast Jellyfish”) can still bob heads and sway bodies; the synthesized gurgling in “19-2000″ still rewards like a Super Mario Super Mushroom. And the best of these songs are downright sinister. Following the dingy bass notes of “Feel Good Inc.” still feels like roaming through a dark alleyway, and thanks to Damon Albarn’s subtle sampling flourishes in the methodical “Kids with Guns,” Salt-N-Pepa has never sounded so menacing.
“I’m useless, but not for long/ the future, it’s coming on,” Albarn once sang listlessly. But those crashing cymbals, his punchy hoots — all of this, as we know now, was just the beginning.