Gorrilaz: Reject False Icons

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Sep 11, 2020
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The fifth edition of DokStation, the only music documentary film festival in Bucharest, takes place between September 17 and 20. The following review explores the documentary Gorillaz – Reject False Icons, one of the films featured in the festival. The documentary is being screened on the last day, Sunday, September 20th, from 21:00 at Deschis Gastrobar.

This year, Gorillaz is celebrating 22 years in the music industry. What a journey! I still cherish and spin their twenty years old self-titled debut LP, partly recorded between Jamaica, Cuba, the US, and the UK, with a substantial focus on hip-hop and sound system culture. And all of that thanks to the chemistry between Damon Albarn (audio), Jamie Hewlett (visual), and the forward-thinking hip-hop producer Dan the Automator. On top of these instruments is the undisputable talented Mc Del Tha Funkee Homosapien, responsible for the crossover MTV hits such as Clint Eastwood and Rock The House.

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More than two decades later, and after seeing Gorillaz perform live at Sziget festival 2018 with over a hundred people crew, we get to realize they are no longer a virtual band and two geniuses having fun. They are a platform for showcasing talent all around the world. They are one big mainstream world music collective. With the film Reject False Icons, Denholm Hewlett has documented the recordings of the last two albums 
Humanz and The Now Now and compiled what seems to be more than a musical brand, and less than a schizoid mess. 2-D, Noodles, Murdoc, and Russel, are now relaxed secondary characters in the story of Gorillaz, zooming in and out of sight, promoting the singles on the LPs, and creating havoc and post-modern poetry.

What Reject False Idols brings new to the Gorillaz documentary is how much more calculated and strategic their song machine has become. They have reached cult status, and the Demon Dayz concept has turned into a massive world-traveling festival. But, we also learn how the socio-political agenda of Damon and Jamie is manifesting itself. With the help of the mainstream labels Parlophone and Warner, but also with millions of fans around the world, they get to travel anywhere they want, to record, tour, and, just as expected, they show us everything and everyone has a price. There is none in the world refusing to collaborate with them, not even the untouchable legends like Grace Jones, Pauline Black, Mavis Staple & Carly Simon. And that is a positive aspect because why not raise awareness on LGBTQ rights and showcasing the amazingly talented rapper Zebra Katz? Why not give praise to the African musicians that kickstarted music, and tp the power of the beat all around the world? Rest in power afro beat innovator Tony Allen!

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The documentary is featuring a mixt gathering of old and new hip-hop artists, such as Little Simz, Pusha T, Danny Brown, Vince Staples, and De La Soul. We are also guided by the soulful African American and British crossover artists such as Peven Everett, Kelela, Benjamin Clementine, Azekel, and Kilo Kish. All in all, an impressive collection of multi-talented artists. 

The documentary takes us on a trip to Jamaica in a Port Antonio studio. We don't get to see Popcaan recording his bits on Saturnz Bars, but we get a sense of how much motion power Albarn has in the music industry. Further in the journey, we get to enter a lot in his inner soul, witness him touring and coping with insomnia, pouring his heart and soul in those songs, getting inspired by lake Geneva in Zurich, and even couching for the first time on stage.

Jamies animations and the hand drawing of characters are wonderfully glitchy, sometimes 8-bit, and a constant pop art tribute to the past 80 years of Hollywood, Bollywood, and Jollywood cultural evolution. Collaborators The Twilight Tone, Remi Kabaka Jr. (also the A&R on both albums), and Tom Ford, are working and pushing the boundaries of their game. 

We get to see some special moments like Albarn sound sampling using a toy space gun for songs on The Now Now album. We get reunited with original dub reggae bassist Junior Dan, and we witness visual references of vocalist 2-D like a Bob Dylan figure. On the second record, even though the features are far less than on Humanz, they are stellar. From the funky single Humility, that has George Benson performing guitar, to the hip-hop ballad Hollywood with Jamie Principle & Snoop Dogg.

The documentary showcases 96 shows, and part of the highlights include some Ennio Morricone style of melodica playing from Damon Albarn on Clint Eastwood in Buenos Aires, a meeting with the legendary Tony Allen, a performance in Paris with Jenny Beth.

The ability to funk, to rock, and to jam is present throughout the film, and the sold-out shows at the London O2 Arena have Mos Def freestyling on a jammed version of their 2010 song Sweepstakes with a big pumping horn section courtesy of the Hypnotic Brass Ensemble.

Why go and watch Reject False Icons? Because there is no other opportunity to have both Bruce Willis and Bobby Womack on the same stage, ever!

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