The Gorillaz 

Demon Days (Virgin)

Here's a recipe for disaster: Hide a diverse bunch of well-known musicians (and one comic-book illustrator) behind a goofy cartoon façade while they produce slightly schizophrenic pop. A hokey concept, yes, but against all odds, the Gorillaz' debut was a superb hodgepodge of breakbeats, indie pop and garage rock. Even more surprising, the act has done it again. Despite an increasing tendency toward hip-hop garnishes, Demon Days is still largely Damon Albarn's Blurry showcase, with the right balance of guitar rock and Britpop. Danger Mouse twiddles the knobs while a ridiculous number of guests -- including De La Soul, Shaun Ryder and Dennis Hopper -- dress up the tracks. The result is another unique product that rises far above its gimmicks. Gorillaz might be two-dimensional, but the music is always 3D.

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