Song 91: Gorillaz, “Rock the House” (2001)

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When I was in London for a semester in 2001, the music on BBC Radio 1 was unbelievably good. Just emerging was Badly Drawn Boy, still-popular bands included Goldfrapp and Daft Punk, and even the one-hit wonders (Toploader, Spooks) were substantive. Many of the songs were years old and not particular to London, but being new to the city, it felt like the music was London’s music circa 2000. I had an acute awareness of my time and place; for that reason, my six-month stay is very vivid.

The major act that was breaking at the time was Gorillaz. We’ve all become accustomed to seeing an imaginary group of animated creatures perform rock-infused hip-hop, but at the time, the idea was pretty crazy. Even the fact that it involved Blur’s Damon Albarn and had anything to do with hip-hop seemed ludicrous (though we’ve all learned since then that Damon Albarn can do whatever he damn well pleases).

I always forget until I hear this song again that a piano pops up in the second chorus. It’s these kinds of touches that make the Gorillaz records so fascinating. They blend genres and cultures without drawing attention to themselves, without boasting; everything fits together seamlessly. Of course, Del Tha Funkee Homosapien is the glue on this one, uniting the samples, beats and poorly played recorder by rapping about how it’s time for all of us to dance. There may be better lyrics than “trace the globe and shake your pants,” but I’m not sure what they would be.

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