Song of the Week: Gorillaz Dazzle on the Hypnotic “Silent Running” with Adeleye Omotayo

Maisie Peters, Joseph, and Steven Sanchez also dropped essential tracks

Silent Running Gorillaz
Gorillaz, photo courtesy of the artist

    Song of the Week breaks down and talks about the song we just can’t get out of our head each week. Find these songs and more on our Spotify Top Songs playlist. For our favorite new songs from emerging artists, check out our Spotify New Sounds playlist. This week, Gorillaz ponders an infinity of darkness on “Silent Running.”

    Damon Albarn begins “Silent Running” with a simple plea: “Stop, ’cause you’re killing me.” Simple enough, right? There’s an air of exhaustion that swims through Gorillaz‘s latest single off their forthcoming album, Cracker Island (out February 24th), which also features vocals from regular touring partner Adeleye Omotayo. Throughout “Silent Running,” Albarn sings of being trapped in a labyrinth, of being fragile and “machine-assisted,” of running and running into infinity.

    And yet, the track is effortlessly groovy, entrancing, and hypnotic. That sense of exhaustion doesn’t just live in Albarn’s lyrics, which are inspired by the 1972 sci-fi film Silent Running that revolves around reforestation, sunlight, and avoiding the complete extinction of biological life. When Omotayo makes his entrance, his and Albarn’s voices swirl around each other atop trance-like synths, creating an overwhelming, emotionally loaded feel.


    It’s fitting that “Silent Running” features production from pop mastermind Greg Kurstin, who can take any demo and make it sound infinitely slick and polished. The crisp drum sounds and funk-inflected guitar work is at the core of Kurstin’s strengths, and it works to counteract the confusion baked into Albarn and Omotayo’s crooning. There’s an existential dread that guides the song, a desperate need to be saved from the unending monotony of the infinite silent run — something many of us can relate to in this day and age.

    But “Silent Running” also points to an exciting stylistic theme appearing on Cracker Island: Though there’s a sense of terror and uncertainty in the fantastical world that Albarn and co. are laying out, there’s also freedom and lightness. Each song depicts mythical circumstances that, funnily enough, seem to mirror aspects of the real world — and beneath it all is a psychedelic explosion of sound and groove that becomes more irresistible with every listen. It’s almost as if they’re setting up a Blade Runner-esque dystopia and a sonic Garden of Eden side-by-side, and “Silent Running” encapsulates that juxtaposition perfectly.

    With still a few more weeks until Gorillaz’s Cracker Island is out in the world, it’s safe to say that the running isn’t going to end very soon — but Gorillaz are implying that there’s glory and safety waiting for us at the finish line.

    — Paolo Ragusa
    Editorial Coordinator