05 March 2012

#96: Gorilaz - Clint Eastwood



Gorrilaz - Clint Eastowwd
from Gorillaz, 2001

I didn't like rap until the end of my freshman year. Up 'til then I thought it was completely fucking ridiculous -- but remember that this was the days of Back That Ass Up and Pony and that sort of thing, so I feel like I had a bit of justification even if I'm still totally to blame for not digging deeper. But then I was confronted with Deltron 3030. Right place, right time, right state of mind -- partly, but I think it clicked when I realized that it was more the song subjects than the genres that I didn't care for. To be trite and clich├ęd, there was more to it than bitches and hoes, and it took a futuristic space rap-opera to teach me that.

Deltron doesn't make this list; if we had 200 songs, there'd be three or four tracks from that album that would be in contention.

This song technically predates this epiphany, being released about two months prior. But I didn't hear it until I went back home for the summer. I retcon the start of my music geekdom to the prior November but, in reality, there was still a ways to go in the process. I was primarily listening to "good" music at this point -- well, primarily Tool and Weezer, but a lot of the other stuff I learned about the prior nine months -- except when I was driving. My car didn't have a CD player and all my music was on CDs. I think I had one of those 1/8" jack to cassette contraptions, but I listened mostly to the radio. And that's where I heard this song, usually at least once a day, for three months.

I loved it immediately. It was obvious: Del Tha Funkee Homosapien, as the Deltron emcee, was my gateway into the world of rap music and here, what is this?! Del's rapping on on this track that's playing on the only radio station I liked! I had to get into rap music! There's only two songs I specifically prayed to hear on the radio, and this is one of them.

Start with the groove, with the riff. It has this waltz feel to it despite being in 4/4 which, in combination with the minor key, gives it an off-kilter ominous feel. The irony of the chorus ("...I got sunshine in a bag...") furthers this to the point that it doesn't actually matter what else is going on in the song; the piece works well purely on atmospherics, though Del's rap braggadocio provides a ghostly veneer.

And then there's the enigmatic title. Wikipedia provides two connections: 1) The "sunshine in a bag" being a reference to The Good, The Bad and The Ugly and 2)

Jamie Hewlett claimed during the documentary-film Bananaz that "The song isn't really about the actor Clint Eastwood, but more to do with the Melodica solo in the song".

But I like to think of it as a reference to High Plains Drifter. This is probably the most enigmatic of the Man With No Name movies (and, consequently, the first to not be directed by Leone), in which it becomes clear that he's a...well, let's call him an "avenging angel." I'm not going to break it down -- I may be completely full of crap -- except to say that he literally paints the town read and renames it HELL. So I think it fits well if you imagine the song as being from Eastwood's character's point of view.

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