Cartoon Gorillaz Monkey Around

GORILLAZ at the Docks (11 Polson), Saturday (February 23). $34.50. 416-870-8000.Hype about back-to-basics rock bands like the Strokes and.


GORILLAZ at the Docks (11 Polson), Saturday (February 23). $34.50. 416-870-8000.Hype about back-to-basics rock bands like the Strokes and White Stripes aside, these are times of manufactured pop.

Rating: NNNNN

Sniping critics like to draw parallels between the cartoon characters of Damon Albarn’s “virtual band” Gorillaz and Canuck Etch-A-Sketch stars Prozzak.

In truth, though, Gorillaz has far more in common with equally cartoonish and similarly fake pop-star bands like O-Town, Sugar Jones, *NSYNC and, er, the Monkees.

Created by Albarn, cartoonist Jamie Hewlett and producer Dan “The Automator” Nakamura and featuring Bay Area MC Del, Cuban sonero Ibrahim Ferrer and others, the “band” of guitarist Noodle, rapper Russel and singers 2D and Murdoc is an exquisite example of style over substance, an excellent Web site (www.gorillaz.com) that somehow became a successful group.

There are dozens of producers and bands making better versions of Gorillaz’s downtempo grooves, but few with the resources or celeb clout of Gorillaz.

Albarn’s star status aside, the real secret weapon is Nakamura. The producer has a knack for pulling off high-concept hiphop projects the hilarious recent set by his Handsome Boy Modeling School outfit was a surprise success. If Albarn turns control over to him, Gorillaz’s Toronto debut Saturday at the Docks could be more than just guys playing behind a screen.

It’s a gamble, but anything that delays Albarn’s forthcoming “world music” project is fine by me.

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