Remember that episode of The Fairly Odd Parents in which Jimmy Neutron pays the Turner family a visit? The shows’ creators reanimated the claymation Neutron to fit into Turner’s more traditional cartoon aesthetic. Gorillaz, with their new music video for “Strobelite,” apply a similar idea with fewer compromises. Gorillaz make Daft Punk’s attempts to hide their faces from the world look like child’s play. Their videos always feature cartoons in a cartoon universe. The consistency of the characters in each video gives some sense of who’s who, but the real people behind them are a always somewhere far away.
However, the four band members, 2-D, Noodle, Murdoc Niccals and Russell Hobbs, are based on no one in particular. Damon Albarn created the band in 1998 with artist Jamie Hewlett. To date, Albarn is the only permanent member of the group. Gorillaz made it into The Guinness Book of World Records in 2001 as the Most Successful Virtual Band (their debut album sold seven million copies). Aside from Alvin and the Chipmunks, who are considered the first demonstration of a virtual band, Gorillaz’s competition in this category pale in comparison. Alvin and the Chipmunks, created in 1958 by Ross Bagdasarian, Sr., released “The Chipmunk Song (Christmas Don’t Be Late)” that same year. Bagdasarian’s use of the three chipmunks as the band’s frontmen created a whole new category of band, a category that now describes Gorillaz and others.
Neutron’s creators had to compromise the characters’ animation style to make him fit in a new world. “Strobelite” bypasses such compromises and injects the Gorillaz cartoon characters into a nightclub filled with actual people. The animation feels a little more ballsy than in previous videos, a little more three-dimensional. The song’s seizure-inducing namesake and location inside a nightclub offer a different quality than a song like “Feel Good Inc.”. Whereas in the latter, characters drift through a dreamscape of floating windmills and seedy lounges, “Strobelite” tells a little less of story in the hopes that it can emulate a fun night of dancing.
2-D and Noodle take the floor, dancing around each other as real people look onward enthusiastically. They look creepy, but happy. The singer, call him a narrator, pops in and out of the shot as the two dance. The brooding bassist, Murdoc Niccols, talks to a man at the bar who gives him a card. As the room around 2-D and Noodle starts to spin into a blur of whirling shades of purple, the two remain in focus, dancing. What’s left is a a floating space that looks like an enhanced game of Dance Dance Revolution. Cubes of responsive light-up tiles drift around as the pair dance on. The word ‘strobelite’ flashes in the background, and the video fades to black. It’s a fun video accompanying a fun song—a move away from what fans are probably used to, but an exciting one nonetheless. The Gorillaz album, Humanz, is out now.