It's a big couple of days for Gorillaz, who released new album Cracker Island on Friday.

In addition, next Friday will mark 13 years since the release of Plastic Beach, the third album by Damon Albarn’s cartoon band.

Featuring guest appearances by Snoop Dogg, Gruff Rhys, De La Soul, Bobby Womack, Mos Def, Lou Reed and Mark E. Smith it was one of the biggest selling albums of the year and consistently ranked among the decade’s best.

It’s just one entry in a long and varied career from frontman Albarn, whose work includes Blur, film soundtracks, a Chinese opera and various supergroups.

Here’s his story told through his own music.

Popscene (1992)

While first album Leisure was a success, Blur soon faced a backlash from the music press of the time. That first record was inspired by the Manchester scene of the Stone Roses and Primal Scream, so when the band returned with a punk-inspired non-album single they were derided as “bogus trend-hoppers”, according to the Guardian. That trend-hopping style would of course go on to define Albarn’s career, and ‘Popscene’ is now seen as one of Blur’s classics.

Country House (The Great Escape, 1995)

You can’t discuss Albarn’s life in songs without the Battle of Britpop. On August 14, 1995 both Blur and Oasis released singles and the battle lines were drawn – north vs south, working class vs middle class, art school vs bunking off school. In truth neither single is its respective band’s finest hour, as both camps have subsequently admitted. Blur won the battle, selling 270,000 copies to take #1.

Closet Romantic (Trainspotting OST, 1996)

Blur may have won the battle but Oasis won the war, with their album (What’s The Story) Morning Glory? Going on to sell more than 20m copies worldwide. Albarn did get one over on Noel Gallagher by getting not one but two songs onto the soundtrack to the defining film of the Britpop era. Gallagher refused to provide any Oasis material as he thought it was a documentary about trainspotters.

Song 2 (Blur, 1997)

Britpop emerged, in part, as a reaction to the predominant grunge music of the time, but by 1997 Blur had decided to flip the script. ‘Song 2’ is clearly indebted to the Seattle sound, a two minute rager of a song with the most simple chorus.

Tender (13, 1999)

Credited to all four members of the band and written about Albarn’s break-up with Justine Frischmann of Elastica, ‘Tender’ is an enduring highlight of Blur’s live sets, with its “oh my baby” refrain frequently continuing long after the band have departed the stage.

Clint Eastwood (Gorillaz, 2001)

At the turn of the millennium, Albarn teamed up with artist Jamie Hewlett to form the virtual band Gorillaz. The cartoon creations branched out into hip-hop and electronic sounds, with most Blur fans probably not receiving what they expected on first single ‘Clint Eastwood’. Built around a pounding beat with verses from Del the Funky Homosapien and a chorus from Albarn as band leader 2-D, it did something no Blur single ever could – reached the US Billboard top 100.

Fire Coming Out of the Monkey’s Head (Demon Days, 2005)

EMI records were publicly pinning their financial hopes for 2005 on Coldplay’s third album and the second effort by Gorillaz. Executives must have slammed their heads into their desks when informed one of Demon Days’ tracks is an environmental fable, largely narrated in spoken word form by Dennis Hopper. As it happened Albarn knew what he was doing – the album went six times platinum in the UK and twice platinum in America.

White Flag (Plastic Beach, 2010)

Gorillaz has always served as a vehicle for Albarn to explore different genres and get some of his favourite artists along for the ride, and the singer-songwriter was an early advocate for grime. The notional frontman is entirely absent from this cut as Kano and Bashy take the lead over an Arab-inspired backing track.

Poison (Rocket Juice & The Moon, 2012)

With the self-titled and only album from supergroup Rocket Juice & The Moon, Albarn brought in elements of funk and afrobeat thanks to virtuoso Red Hot Chili Peppers bassist Flea and Fela Kuti’s legendary drummer Tony Allen.

Everday Robots (Everyday Robots, 2014)

It took until 2014 for Albarn to make a true solo record, which was nominated for the Mercury Music Prize in that same year. A subdued effort in the vein of Gorillaz’ ‘On Melancholy Hill’, it was inspired by watching people in an LA traffic jam.

Bonus tracks

19-2000 (Soulchild remix) (Gorillaz, 2001)

’19-2000’ was the second single from the debut Gorillaz album, but the fact it went to number six is largely down to the B-side, a popped up and, frankly, much better remix by producers Damien Mendis and Stuart Bradbury.

Charmless Man (The Great Escape, 1995)

Allegedly written about Smiths frontman Morrissey, ‘Charmless Man’ tells the story of a pretentious bore “educated the expensive way” who “knows his claret from his Beaujolais”. The Ronnie Kray reference would appear to be the final nail in the coffin. Say what you like about Albarn, he was ahead of the game on Morrissey.

Parklife (Parklife, 1994)

There are better songs on what is arguably Blur’s finest album, but the title track just can’t be beat as a cultural icon. Phil Daniels being overly verbose as Albarn yells “Parklife!” it’s one of the defining tracks of Britpop and perfectly encapsulates the band’s tongue-in-cheek style.

Feel Good Inc (Demon Days, 2005)

Not everything on Demon Days was as out there are Fire Coming Out of the Monkey’s Head. Its lead single, a collaboration with hip-hop royalty De La Soul blends rock, rap and funk and may well be the biggest hit of Albarn’s career. It reached number 14 on the Billboard Hot 100 and was among the best-selling singles on that chart for both 2005 and 2006, selling close to 3m copies to go with 1.2m in the UK.

Coffee & TV (13, 1999)

A slight cheat, given Graham Coxon is the primary songwriter and takes lead vocals but Albarn is credited as a writer on the song and it’s one of Blur’s very best, not least for its iconic music video. The clip features an anthropomorphic carton of milk embarking on an adventure.