Gorillaz are back! The world's most successful animated band (Alvin who?) returns with their third album, Plastic Beach, after selling nearly 15 million discs so far and earning five Grammy noms in 2006 (the same year they opened the show performing with an animated Madonna!).
But things are not all the same. Here's the backstory:
The group's sexy guitarist Noodle vanished at the end of the group's "El Manana" video (from the Demon Days album), parachuting off the island as it was shot down by a mysterious group in attack helicopters, an organization known as The Black Clouds. She was presumed dead in the subsequent explosion Murdoc, bass-player and self-styled Svengali of Gorillaz, arrived at the crash site of the video months later looking for Noodle. He didn't find her -- or not all of her. However he scraped up some of the, erm, 'remnants,' her DNA, and stored it in a jar. "Just in case, like."
Once on Plastic Beach, Murdoc realised that he needed a solid-gold guitar player -- someone like Noodle. Using the DNA from the tissue found at the crash site and with assistance from some top-notch cyborg scientists, he rebuilt Noodle! The current Noodle is thus a fully-functioning replicant with the original Noodle's DNA and misty memories of her human life. Not quite at the Blade Runner level, but getting there. She has all the guitar skills but not all of the empathy and humanity of the real Noodle, although whispers of her former incarnation are beginning to emerge due to the cyborg sharing DNA tissue with the original host.
On top of this Murdoc made sure that this cyborg was armed to the teeth, fully kitted out with ever weapon his newly appointed bodyguard would need to defend such a high profile A-lister such as the leader of a world famous band. Additional features include the ability to shoot bullets out of her mouth which is very handy as Murdoc is being followed -- possibly by those pesky Black Clouds.
Although Noodle has her guitar skills, most of her faculties and some memories, Murdoc is the one pulling the strings, flipping the switches and inserting the memory chips. I decided to talk to her robot clone anyway.
You can find part of interview in the new issue of Us Weekly out today but here's the whole thing.
UsMagazine.com: Tell Us about the new album.
Noodle: ZZZzzztt...Crackle...Plastic Beach is a collection of little snapshots of many, many places round the world all stuck all together on a billboard so you can see how they work together. We've got electro grooves and soaring strings, lonesome love songs and hard fast-rocking riffs. In our quest we've had many generous collaborators working with us: Mos Def, Snoop Dogg, Bobby Womack, De La Soul, Lou Reed, the National Orchestra of Arabic Music all the way over in Syria. It is a shiny, soulful collage.
Us: How was it working with Snoop Dogg?
Noodle: He was a perfect gentleman although I believe he gets up even later than [Gorillaz band member] Murdoc. Which is late. His contribution was ideal for our track "Welcome to the World of the Plastic Beach"; he plays the part of the host, the master of ceremonies, welcoming the listener to our world. Which is appropriate since his records were for many people the obvious way in to rap music in the 1990s. I see him as being part of a lineage which stretches all the way from Sly and the Family Stone. Mr. Dogg and his entourage cruised towards our Plastic Beach island shrouded in a thick plume of smoke, pimp fur and high-quality gold accessories.
Us: How is it harder being an animated rock star than a live one?
Noodle: It's hard to be a real live rock star but it's trickier still to be a real animated rock star. And when you are a cyborg replicant of an animated rock star things get really difficult. Mr. Murdoc successfully created me from DNA he collected at the crash site of the El Manana video. Most things work pretty well for me but I still have a few problems -- I can't watch satellite television because my circuits interfere with the transmission. Also I can't get wet which is tricky on a very small island. But I don't get tired, am impervious to cold and can fire bullets out of my mouth. I have retained all of the original Noodle's guitar skills but, I am told, not all of her wisdom. I am still smarter than John Mayer though, so I think I'll be OK.
Us: What was it like working with Madonna? Was she a perfectionist?
Noodle: It was a very technical experience -- the team had to develop new cameras and work with many talented people to get it all just right. Madonna is a perfectionist, of course, all successful people are. She just wears it on the outside. Even Murdoc, who likes to pretend he 'lets it all hang out,' will make 2D do a vocal take 100 times if he's not happy. I admire whoever built the original Madonna 1.0 and all of the subsequent upgrades…There have been little or no dysfunctions. Although around "Bedtime Stories" I understand she was recalled and had to have substantial overhaulings, in order to make her run more efficiently. However whatever was causing her dysfunction has been rectified and she has gone on to have continued success. Her manufactures should feel very proud.
Us: You used to have a crush on Justin Timberlake. Jealous of Jessica Biel?
Noodle: I wish them only success and joy. I play my copy of Justified once a week and light a candle, but I've moved on now.
Us: What other singers do you look up to?
Noodle: I would say most of them. I am only 4 ft 11" tall. And I'm a much better guitar player than I am a singer but I have huge respect and admiration for all sorts of vocalist. I like the classic singers like Bobby Womack who sings on our new single Stylo, or Aretha Franklin, or Robert Palmer. I also like those with a 'unique' vocal sound -- like Tina Weymouth from Talking Heads or Kate Bush.
Us: You are still single. Any new celebrity crushes?
Noodle: It does get lonely on Plastic Beach. Recently I have been enjoying the Twilight films with the charming English actor Robert Pattinson. Apparently he makes music too. I would be happy to give him guitar lessons some day.