It was announced Friday that Gorillaz, the celebrated mixed media band, would be returning soon. The declaration came with the predictive subtlety of the age when co-founder and illustrator of the raggedy foursome, Jamie Hewlett, posted some new images of band members Noodle and Murdoc on his Instagram feed. It was only when a fan inquired after their meaning that he answered simply: "Yes, Gorillaz returns."
The cartoon band formed in 1998, helmed by Damon Albarn and Jamie Hewlett, who respectively provide the music and illustrations for the band, and share credit for the concept and character formation. Gorillaz first entered the popular stream with their debut hit, "Clint Eastwood," and its subsequent music video, which matched bombastic beats with moody, tonal characters apropos to their role in the song. Over the following decade and some, they would continue to delight fans with forthcoming albums and singles, accompanied with an array of DVDs, visual projects, and music videos that were unburdened by the common plights of real world limitations, each era marked by thematically named Phases. Albarn, already well-learned from his role as frontman for Britpop act Blur, and Hewlett, whose luminous past includes co-creation of the Tank Girl comics, excelled not just in crafting delicious, vibrant music but in world-building: 2D, Russel, Murdoc and Noodle occupied a strange and often symptomatic landscape, which explained their own individual fleshed out oddities.
The toothsome foursome disbanded in 2012, due to a fallout between the two creators. Tensions had allegedly been building since Phase Three: Escape to Plastic Beach. Over the next few years, both parties remained tight-lipped regarding the band's return, though both made separate, multiple hints at the consideration and willingness to contribute towards new material for Gorillaz. This latest update from Hewlett seems to be the most promising implication of their impending return yet.
Even at their most electric, and despite (or, perhaps, in spite of) being cartoons, Albarn's pop-friendly past has always nurtured an intimacy of the characters and the story Hewlett is drawing them into. The elasticity of being able to invent a band solely through an animated storyboard means that an individual song's motifs can be enlarged upon, and even become literal elements of the video, meaning long after digital media killed the video star, Gorillaz' videos were still able to reign supreme in the cybersphere. Whether stomping the dubious foregrounds of some remote factorial setting, or cruising the barren belt of a wasteland with Bruce Willis, rife with insinuations of a shady destination, or frittering time away in an earthen sky-ship, Gorillaz have proved that you don't necessarily need rustic good looks, form-fitting outfits or other frivolous aesthetic to keep your fanbase glued to the screen.
Regardless of past conflict, Hewlett and Albarn's synergistic marriage of animation and music has pushed the boundaries of how we envision the characteristics of sound, and we are fully thrilled by this promise for new, forthcoming work by the duo. You have been missed. Here's to Phase 4, guys.