Is Murdoc truly the completely reprehensible bastard that he claims to be, or is he a sad little man who was never given a chance at a normal life and is incapable of understanding others as a result? Does he actually enjoy being on Plastic Beach due to it being his "kingdom", or does he secretly miss having anyone to talk to? Did he kidnap 2D out of necessity of producing the album, or did he do it because he was the one person who didn't completely hate him and was thus the only person he could call a friend? Phase 3 manages to provide support for all sides of the argument.
In the "Lost Chord" music video, he seems shaken by the sight of Cyborg Noodle abandoned on Plastic Beach. Was he ashamed he had abandoned her when Noodle came back, or did he even remember she still existed prior to that moment? Was it the shock of seeing someone who looked essentially like the "daughter" he raised in a state of disrepair, or was he just thinking about how Noodle (standing behind him) might react?
Is 2D an Idiot Savant, or an intelligent young man whose mind was destroyed by severe head trauma and constant pain killer usage?
Some fans theorize that 2-D might be on the autism spectrum, most likely undiagnosed, citing behaviors such as stimming, as well as music and zombie movies being possible special interests of his.
Alternate Self Shipping: Since her creation in Phase 3, Cyborg Noodle has naturally appeared in fanarts where she's making out with Real Noodle.
Animation Age Ghetto: On the one hand, a minority of well-intentioned parents have brought their children to see their live shows, unaware that this "cartoon" band has several songs about death and violence, and the fictional characters who make them up include oversexed psychopath Murdoc. To say nothing of the violence and sexual content of their videos (Murdoc's "bass shagging" in "Feel Good Inc." and attempted animal abuse in "19-2000"). On the other hand, the band's inherently gloomy visual style tends to be a good tip off that they aren't child-friendly. More importantly, the concept of the cartoon characters being the actual band has been respected by both music journalists and MTV, who even gave Murdoc his own episode of Cribs.
To a lesser extent, Ace. He's loved for the most part, but some find him an unnecessary addition. Then again, it goes hand-in-hand with Murdoc's status as a Base-Breaking Character, since Ace is especially loved by fans who either feel neutral about Murdoc or outright hate him (or, he's adored by enthusiastic Ace fans from the original PPG series who got into Gorillaz thanks to his incorporation). Then there are those who feel Ace was used better here than in the base-breaking 2016 series of his home franchise (which was airing at the time of The Now Now's release), where he and the rest of the Gangreen Gang were pretty much shunted to the background in favor of newer villains.
One of the last singles from Phase 3, "Doncamatic", which wasn't part of Plastic Beach, caused one. Half the YouTube comments are lauding it as a spiritual successor to "DARE", and the other half are criticizing it for its lack of Damon Albarn and similarity to current pop. Its release as a single also provoked anger, as it was chosen over fan favorite "Empire Ants". Then "Doncamatic" had a video made for it, which was considerably less epic and plot-advancing than the canceled "Rhinestone Eyes" video.
How central to the band the characters are is also a hot topic of debate, particularly after Phase 3, with many claiming the increased focus on the cartoons early on in the phase is what ultimately led to its unceremonious and abrupt end. At the same time, others have asserted that the lack of focus on the characters during the release of Humanz is ultimately what caused it to become the band's worst received album.
Humanz is a very divisive album, generally agreed to be one of the band's weaker showings, but with many disagreements on how good or bad the actual album is on its own. The lack of a major driving concept can be seen as making it less consistent and important to Gorillaz lore, or it lends an appealing "mixtape" feel similar to their earlier albums. The abundance of featuring artists is seen as refreshing and fun, annoyingly overbearing, simply regular business for the band, and everything in between. With there being so many controversial decisions involved in the album, it's safe to assume that more than with previous projects, no two Gorillaz fans share the exact same opinion on it.
The increasing sexualization of Noodle in Phases 3 and 4. It's mostly dependent on whether you view the fact that we've known her since she was 10 to cause any Fanservice involving her to become source of Squick or not. Some view it as being equivalent to sexualizing a close childhood friend or relative, while others believe that, as she is now an adult, there is nothing wrong with suggesting that she is a sexual being.
Was it an interesting idea to temporarily have Murdoc arrested and replaced with a Powerpuff Girls character for The Now Now? Or was it an unnecessary plot point? Keep in mind that we don't know the entire storyline of the album, and it typically boils down to whether someone likes Murdoc or Ace more.
6LACK's verses in "The Pink Phantom" are either thematically relevant with good flow that just contributes to the song's overall surreal feeling, or they're overproduced and hinder/ruin the song. It doesn't help that most, even the people who like 6LACK's verses, agree they are weakest part of the track.
Cargo Ship: The Feel Good Inc. commentary makes reference to Murdoc's "bass-shagging action".
Creepy Awesome: Murdoc is a despicable satanist who may or may not be millions of years old, but he's a real charmer.
Quite a few fanfictions either downplay or completely subvert the negative aspects of Murdoc's personality, usually for the sake of shipping.
To a much less severe extent, most fanfics significantly downplay 2D's less savory characteristics (such as his fathering of a dozen illegitimate children) and make him a full on Nice Guy. His intelligence is also generally boosted by a few IQ points.
Song variety — "Rhinestone Eyes" and "Empire Ants" are almost universally beloved among fans, and neither were ever official released as singles, though "Rhinestone Eyes" came close.
Many of the tracks off of the Self-Titled Album — most notably "Sound Check (Gravity)", "Punk", "Slow Country", and "5/4" — are quite popular among fans, though rarely played live.
"All Alone" is one of the most popular and well-received songs from Demon Days, despite never being a single (though a live version was a B-side for some releases of "Dirty Harry").
Cyborg Noodle, due to being a second version of Noodle, who is already a tremendously popular character, tends to get featured in a lot of fan-created content. The notorious uncertainty surrounding her fate following Plastic Beach has oddly increased the amount of fans who want to see her again.
Similarly, Paula Cracker, despite being little more than a footnote within the band's history, tends to attract a lot of attention from fans due to being the only female character with a name and design that isn't some kind of derivative of Noodle. In an interesting variation from how this trope normally plays out, though, a sizeable chunk of this attention is negative.
Of all things, a location at that: Kong Studios, the band's website studio is considered a fan favorite due to it's rather detailed lore and just overall awesome concept behind it. The studio of Plastic Beach (not the album) was even considered a Replacement Scrappy for fans simply because it wasn't Kong. Of course fans were elated when Song Machine's single "Désolé" revealed the band had found a new studio and renamed it Kong Studios, hoping Jamie and company decide to make a website like the old days of Kong.
Epic Riff: "Every Planet We Reach Is Dead," the bass riff in "Feel Good Inc.", "Clint Eastwood", the guitar riff that begins midway through the song "Demon Days", and the violin riff that comes in halfway through the song in "Sound Check (Gravity)".
Face of the Band: 2D and Noodle in the videos, Murdoc in interviews. 2D gets the lion's share of the screentime in most videos barring a few which star Noodle. It stopped being the case throughout Phase 3, where the focus was on Murdoc while the rest of the band were mostly relegated to the background, but came back in full force from "DoYaThing" onwards.
Due to Phase 3's storyline never getting to cover what happened to the band after Noodle and Russel arrived at Plastic Beach, plenty of fanfic writers have taken it upon themselves to give it an ending.
Crossing over with The Powerpuff Girls, Ace's time as Murdoc's replacement shows him as a much more stable person compared to his teenage self. Does this mean that the rest of the Gangreen Gang have also matured in their adulthood? Or are they still trouble-making thugs?
Fan Nickname: It's common to see the ship steward that tries to escort Noodle to safety at the start of the On Melancholy Hill video get referred to as "Lifebewtz Guy" or even just "Lifebewtz", for obvious reasons.
Cyborg Noodle is never said to have been based on the real Noodle's appearance as a teen at any point, and is in fact shown to be nearly identical to an adult Noodle in the few pictures where they appear together. Despite this, you'd be hard-pressed to find any fanfiction that doesn't claim this to be true, simply because it avoids dealing with the Fridge Logic of how Murdoc (the Cyborg's creator) would know what Noodle would look like as an adult despite having last seen her as a young teen.
Ace being bisexual is a popular thing for fans to include in fan works, but there's nothing in his home franchise to confirm anything of the sort (the only person he ever showed any sort of attraction towards is Sedusa, and even that's questionable among PPG fans), and he barely interacts with the rest of the band in his time with Gorillaz for us to get an idea about it. It seems to be a rumor/headcanon that caught steam and then fans of both Gorillaz and PPG ran with it, to the point where it was even mentioned in his page in the Powerpuff Girls Wiki on Fandom.
Fan-Preferred Couple: It's a tie between 2D×Murdoc and 2D×Noodle — Murdoc×Noodle is also popular, but not to the extent of the other two. In the earlier years of Gorillaz, 2D×Noodle was more popular, but 2D×Murdoc has gotten more popular these days, mainly due to their large number of interactions. Noodle×Ace has also gotten a much smaller but still very outspoken following (despite Jame Hewlett confirming that they're Just Friends) due to a piece of official artwork depicting them with their arms interlocked and Ace being the only bandmate who averts having any kind of Wife Husbandry undertones with Noodle.
Since they share the same creators, many Gorillaz fans are also Tank Girl and Blur fans, especially in the case of the former.
The temporary incorporation of Ace from The Powerpuff Girls for Phase 5 and The Now Now has also brought many fans of that franchise into the band, not to mention the praise from older fans due to the fact that Gorillaz came out around the time that the original PPG series (which many of said older fans grew up with) was at its peak in popularity.
Demon Days includes a collab with MF DOOM entitled "November Has Come". MF DOOM would end up passing away on October 31, 2020 — the day before November.
The lyric "The sea is radioactive" from "Superfast Jellyfish" became a lot harsher in the wake of the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami, in which the Fukushima nuclear power plant suffered a partial meltdown, sparking fears that the entire sea could be irradiated by waste leaking out of it (fortunately this did not come to pass, but it was a very close call).
Heartwarming in Hindsight: Knowing that Phase 3 was intended to end with The End of the World as We Know It with all of existence getting sucked away after Plastic Beach, the product of humanity's continued presence on the planet, is removed from its plug, Poseidon himself appearing to rip the island apart to no ill effects while repeating the mantra "I wanna be free" in the "The Lost Chord" video can feel downright cathartic.
Iron Woobie: Russel, Noodle and 2D have all soldiered through such excruciating trauma throughout their lives that you just want to hug them all. Even Murdoc's backstory is rather tragic.
Jerkass Woobie: Pre-adolescent Murdoc. He grew out of woobiehood pretty quickly, and by all accounts he was a horrible little boy, but... poor kid. He gets a little bit of it back in the Pirate Radio broadcasts, in which a re-occurring theme is how depressingly lonely he is. Every time it hits him he chugs more rum to put it out of his mind, but since it comes up at least three or four times per broadcast it's clearly not helping much anymore.
Just Here for Godzilla: The diverse backgrounds of the two creators result in something of a split among certain fans. Some are in mainly for the characters, more precisely Jamie Hewlett's art. Others are in mainly for the music, more precisely Damon Albarn's singing.
It's a common observation that 2D's body is approximately 70% pants.
Fans had a field day when, after seven years of waiting, the first thing Murdoc does in the Saturnz Barz video is take a bath in some really suspect conditions, spending the vast majority of the video butt-naked.
This live performance of an incredibly drunk Shaun Ryder singing "DARE" has become notorious amongst fans.
With the unexpected appearance of Ace as the replacement bassist for Murdoc, jokes about how he left his universe after his reboot sucked so he could perform in another universe's band ran amok.
Similarly, after knowing in an interview about the limitations Cartoon Network put for Hewlett and Albarn to use Ace ("no alcohol or prostitutes!"), lots of jokes about Ace is a "minor", "a good boy", or "the one clean soul of Gorillaz" spread out. (It doesn't help that in canon, characters similar to Ace would often indulge in alcohol and prostitution in other media, by the by...)
The Album Cover for Demon Days is a popular template for fanart, often replacing the band members with four different characters from another source. Several examples can be found in this Know Your Meme gallery.
In America, where the band's first two albums have outsold Blur's entire discography.
They're arguably this for Deltron 3030 as well. All three members of Deltron appeared on the first album, and Deltron's "Time Keeps on Slipping" is usually referred to as a "proto-Gorillaz" song.
Nausea Fuel: The first video of the Murdoc's Dressing Room three-parter shows you more of Murdoc than you ever wanted to see, as does the band's segment on MTV Cribs. Not to mention "Rock the House", "Feel Good Inc.", and "The Eel" G-bite.
No Yay: For a few fans, shipping any of the characters together leads to a number of problems: Murdoc seems to be incapable of having a healthy, non-abusive relationship with anyone; Noodle is over a decade younger than even the group's second-youngest member, having joined the band at the age of eight, and even now that she's older, the thought of her in a romantic relationship with another band member still squicks some fans out; finally, the characters in the only remaining possible ship, 2D and Russel, barely interact, let alone in a romantic sense. Not to mention 2D's highly-suspect mental capacity...
Replacement Scrappy: EMI lost a lot of the fans' esteem when the originally-intended, storyboarded and plot-advancing music video for "Rhinestone Eyes" was cancelled in favor of "Doncamatic".
Ships That Pass in the Night: Despite the small size of the cast, the incredibly popular 2D/Noodle pairing has surprisingly little to go off of, as the two have actually interacted the least out of all the band members in videos and interviews, with their sibling-like "zen bond" largely being a case of Take Our Word for It. Content released from Phase 4 onward has helped rectify this, with the two being featured together in several pieces of artwork and almost all of the Strobelite video being devoted to showing them dancing together.
Ship-to-Ship Combat: An interesting example. While the shipping communities are generally cordial towards each other, those who consider Noodle getting shipped with either 2D or Murdoc to be a source of Squick are sometimes very vocally opposed to anyone who says otherwise. So much so that multiple fan artists and fanfic writers were pressured into removing their 2D/Noodle and Murdoc/Noodle content to avoid further harassment from anti-shippers.
"Clint Eastwood" and "Feel Good Inc." are tied for the band as a whole. The former helped the band gain mainstream attention while the latter is arguably their most recognized song.
"Dirty Harry" and "Demon Days" from Demon Days. The former blends many of the attributes for which the band are famed, whereas the latter is a signature tune which closes most of Gorillaz's live performances, stating Noodle's philosophy for the band and the world around them.
"On Melancholy Hill" and "Stylo" from Plastic Beach.
"Désolé" from Song Machine, with "PAC-MAN" and "The Pink Phantom" as contenders.
So Bad, It's Good: Shaun Ryder's infamous performance of "DARE" while so totally blasted that half his words are slurred and he can barely remember the lyrics.
In Murdoc's lair in the Plastic Beach game, there are several boxes labeled "Edible panties", "Nipple tassels"... fetish fuel, maybe, if not for the ridiculous amount of flies hovering around them...
And considering they're in Murdoc's room... Yeah, probably best not to think about what those would be used for.
In the "02 Priority Walk" video, take note of Cyborg Noodle's incredibly fanservice-y outfit. She's supposed to be a replica of a 14-year old girl. Then again, she was made by Murdoc.
Noodle is often shipped with either 2D or Murdoc — even when she was eight years old. Not quite as squicky by Phase 4 as she is now well into her twenties, but it's still a little dodgy.
Tainted by the Preview: The demo of Stylo was not well-received and people assumed it is what the finished version sounds like — the finished version actually sounds much better.
Take That, Scrappy!: Considering how divisive "Doncamatic" was at the time of its release, it's hard not to think of the lingering shot of Daley's long dead skeleton in "The Lost Chord" video as anything other than a jab at it.
The Evangelist, who was designed as the Boogieman'sGood Counterpart and foil, as well as the only person capable of offering Murdoc a chance at redemption. A fan contest was held to create a design for them, with the winning design getting redrawn by Jamie Hewlett himself, along with promises of the character going on to become a major part of the storyline in the future. Instead, the Evangelist makes a short cameo at the beginning of the second chapter of the adventure game to deliver a package and is otherwise completely forgotten about.
The Boogieman himself is an example. The only recurring antagonist the band faces in their videos, as well as a mysterious Knight of Cerebus, he would have made for a compelling character if only Phase 3's Troubled Production didn't result in the storyline getting Cut Short, causing his motives and origins to never get revealed and his conflict with Murdoc receiving no resolution.
Cyborg Noodle also applies, for much of the same reasons as the Boogieman. After receiving a substantial amount of build-up, Phase 3's Troubled Production resulted in her being subjected to an Uncertain Doom before being able to really do anything of note.
Everyone in the band looks vaguely and yet endearingly simian, especially Noodle and 2D (though they aren't considered ugly in-universe). Given the band's name, one could be forgiven for not realizing they are human at first, especially in Phase 1.
Viewer Gender Confusion: About a quarter of the comments on some YouTube copies of the "DARE" video are people asking if Noodle is a boy or a girl, and another quarter are people telling the aforementioned that she's female, with varying levels of politeness. She was even more ambiguous in Phase 1, before she reached puberty. In Phase 3, she wears a much more feminine ensemble — a dress, stockings and lipstick — and Cyborg Noodle wears belly shirts and hot pants, and from Phase 4 onwards she's fully matured into adulthood, so it seems like it's gone for good.
What Do You Mean, It's Not for Kids?: Animation Age Ghetto seems to have worked on them some, as parents have mistakenly brought their kids to live concerts. It's an animated band with ridiculously catchy music... that features a character like Murdoc Niccals. Many of their songs and videos have prominent adult imagery and themes: "5/4" is all about how someone was Driven to Suicide, the music video of "Stylo" features a shooting scene and the Boogieman, "On Melancholy Hill"'s video has a Gory Discretion Shot and Cyborg Noodle throwing up an octopus, and "Feel Good Inc."'s video has Murdoc's "bass-shagging action", with the tower it's set in giving off a general feel of an adult nightclub or a brothel. While most of the lyrics are pretty ambiguous, they can be highly suggestive with moments of profanity, and it's not rare to see Murdoc with emptied tequila bottles, 2D with switchblade knives and cigarettes, and dead animals. One early, unreleased music video for "5/4" would have started off with a view of a girl masturbating, and treated the viewer to a naked Murdoc with a very visible penis. Their first self-titled album and Humanz even have Parental Advisory stickers on them.
After the release of Humanz itself polarized fans and critics alikenote One of its main criticisms being how it was less about the band itself and more like Damon Albarn just collaborating with whichever artists he could find, "Sleeping Powder" and The Now Now were made specifically in response to it, containing almost no features and centralizing directly on 2D and his character, seen by many as a necessary, confidence-regaining bounceback for the band.
Song Machine continued the band's creative momentum, returning to their collaboration-heavy style, but handled in a way that fans and critics alike consider much more balanced and a return to their pre-Humanz form. Along with the format shift from traditional album release cycles to a periodically-updating web series of full music videos, they've also shown they still have plenty of innovation in them as well.
You have to feel bad for 2D. First off, he got put in a coma and got an eye fractured after Murdoc hit him with a car, and had to be taken care of by Murdoc whilst in the coma, not to mention the rumors of what happened during that time. Then Murdoc managed to crash the car trying to 360 to impress a girl and 2D was thrown through the windshield. This woke him from the coma and shattered his other eye. Murdoc abused him all the time, then drugged and kidnapped him for Plastic Beach. During the iTunes sessions, Murdoc bragged about nailing his girlfriend and proceeded to chloroform 2D when he attacked. Finally, in the "DoYaThing" video, there is a final twisting of the knife — 2D reads a newspaper with a cartoon called The Gorillaz in which Murdoc gives him a hug and says "It's good to have friends." 2D smiles at this, but then the real Murdoc comes downstairs and brutally smacks him across the head with a shoe. The heartbroken look on his face is awful.
The whole band, really. Russel's friends were killed and then he got possessed and expelled from school for mauling some other students, Murdoc whilst being a complete dick did have an admittedly abusive childhood, and Noodle's life was crap between Phase 2 and Phase 4 although she's been back with her bandmates as of "DoYaThing".