A society of futuristic ape-like creatures sit brooding in a dark, rusty tower circled by helicopters and visited by a floating island powered by a Dutch windmill. Sound familiar? God, I hope not. This is the basic plot of “Feel Good Inc.,” the long-awaited new release from the world’s preeminent animated brainy hip-hop all-star extravaganza Gorillaz (and De La Soul guest on this track!), and it’s hot. It’s not pushing any boundaries, (and, hey, what is these days?) but the video is visually pleasing, and helium-injected earth-chunks being chased by helicopters into the sunset always make me smile—except when they invade my dreams.
But what does it all mean? I’m tempted to think it’s self-directed, an expression of how trapped the band feels by the sound they created for themselves. Indeed, the song begins in the tower, in a musical style very similar to past releases, but as windmill-island emerges above the clouds the song shifts to a new jangly guitar-driven, genuinely pretty chorus. A new direction? Blur? Perhaps. Or perhaps their angel dust wasn’t so pure after all.
Then again, Damon Albarn and company often remind me of that nerdy, sarcastic kid you’re always afraid to take seriously: it might be heartfelt truth, or it might just be a joke meant to make you look stupid in front of all your friends on the baseball team that summer when I was twelve. Anyway, whether self-revelation or mockery of others, a little summer-time prettiness is always worth a shot, especially when you’re about to enter rehab.