Recording information: Chung King Studios; Gee Jam Studios; Kong Studios; Studio 13; The Hit Room.
It is no great surprise that a group designed as a concept would eventually specialize in concept albums, so when Gorillaz abandoned the giddiness that fueled their 2001 debut in favor of dense dystopian dance-rock operas, it seemed logical and the transition was eased by Albarn's cunning knack for sharp crossover singles. Released in 2011, The Singles Collection 2001-2011 rounds up 15 of those singles -- including remixes of early hits "Clint Eastwood" and "19/2000" and "Doncamatic," which was added to later pressings of 2010's Plastic Beach, but nothing from their iPad-recorded 2010 detour The Fall -- and they make for an impressively consistent body of work, with Gorillaz finding many variations within their blend of Brit-pop, hip-hop, dance, and rock. In this context, it is clear that the three singles pulled from Plastic Beach -- "Stylo," "Superfast Jellyfish," "On Melancholy Hill" -- didn't reach the same heights as those from Gorillaz and Demon Days because they were cobbled by a certain dourness -- a quality lacking from the singles from the similarly pessimistic Demon Days and from "Doncamatic" -- yet they don't offer a sour coda on this Singles Collection; instead, they indicate the complexity of this cartoon pop group, which means this compilation isn't merely a good collection of hits, it's a fine introduction to the multifaceted pleasures of Gorillaz. [The Deluxe Edition contains a bonus DVD with the group's videos (essential to the understanding of the group), a documentary called Charts of Darkness, two BRIT Award performances, and three trailers.] ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine