Though it seems a bit soon for a virtual group with only one album to its name to be releasing a B-sides collection, Gorillaz' G-Sides more or less justifies its existence by gathering some of the best extra tracks from the band's singles, most of which are only available as imports. As with Gorillaz, which surrounded catchy songs like "Clint Eastwood" and "19/2000" with quirkier, more experimental tracks, the band uses its B-sides as a chance to stretch out even further musically, either with remixes or with unconventional musical sketches. G-Sides features some of each, ranging from the even bouncier, more upbeat remix of "19/2000" by Soulchild, to the rather eerie "Hip Albatross," which mixes samples of moaning zombies from Dawn of the Dead with trip-hoppy beats and moody guitars. Rapper Phi Life Cyber reinforces Gorillaz' hip-hop roots by joining them on two tracks, for a reworking of "Clint Eastwood" and "The Sounder." The appealingly simple "12D3," with its strummy guitar and playful Damon Albarn vocals, recalls some of Blur's later work, and the funky, quirky "Ghost Train," and the English version of "Latin Simone" are as enjoyable as anything that appeared on Gorillaz. Aside from the Wiseguys' rather limp reworking of "19/2000," the only problem with G-Sides is its brevity; the U.S. version only includes ten of the B-sides, none of which are from their biggest single, "Clint Eastwood." And while most of the import singles featured CD-ROM tracks of the group's amazing animated videos, none of them appear here. Though the enhanced version of G-Sides and the Japanese B-Side Collection feature more of Gorillaz' B-sides (and they'll probably have a video collection sooner rather than later), these kinds of omissions make G-Sides a slightly frustrating collection. Gorillaz completists will no doubt have all of the import singles already, but G-Sides is the logical next step for anyone intrigued by the group's debut. [The enhanced U.K. issue of the CD not only includes videos for "Clint Eastwood" and "Rock the House," but a slightly different track listing, trading "Latin Simone" and "19-2000 [Wiseguys House of Wisdom Remix]" for "Dracula" and "Rock the House," and adding the track "Left Hand Suzuki Method."]
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G-Sides is a collection of nine mix-and-match tracks -- remixes, B-sides, previously unreleased leftovers, two multimedia videos -- that doesn't further the sound Gorillaz (Damon Albarn, Dan the Automator, et al.) imparted on their hit album. It entrenches it. If you smiled at and head-nodded along with the airwave ubiquity that out-and-out dub hip-hop pop like "Clint Eastwood" gained in 2001, here's some more 21st-century branch swinging. Of the two "new" tracks, "The Sounder" is rap music for the supine backpacker contingent (two unidentified "underground MCs" spitting clever PG boasts over tabla-funk), while "Faust" is a sunshiny synth-pop-happy piece of alt-crossover. Both offer more evidence that the studio wizard behind the Gorillaz curtain is extremely comfortable mixing hip-hop, electronica, and other outsider post-rock idioms. Of course the masses attracted to this cartoon character "band" already know a great deal about their special ape appeal. For nonbelievers, the filtered groove of Soulchild's trip-pop remix of "19-2000," the Phil Life Cypher's new battle-rhyme take on "Eastwood," and the weirdo electronic-rock nuggets of the B-sides must serve as proof of Gorillaz's disposable pop acumen. Made-up though they may be, Gorillaz still seem to have evolved past human teens (and their producers) at fashioning sweet, smart, catchy treats. They're now heading for the musical product hall of fame, where they'll inevitably share shelf space with the great Banana Splits.