Gorillaz are a virtual project band put together by Blur frontman Damon Albarn and artist/cartoonist Jamie Hewlett. They have been one of the most intriguing and perceptively challenging groups of the 21st century as the virtual aspect of the band is displayed in the form of fictional characters who introduce us to their alternative world through the use of music and art. This latest release is the fifth album of their discography spread over a 16 year period, with 2005’s ‘Demon Days’ being their most successful project to date, boasting memorable hits such as ‘Feel Good Inc.’ and ‘DARE’. Can they emulate that success with this comeback album? Let’s find out.
The variety of genres in their collaborations is something which Gorillaz pride themselves on and this album is no different. About 75% of the features on this album do fantastic jobs and provide a really nice twist to the track they are on. My favourite features are, for the most part, the rappers on here, with Danny Brown (‘Submission’), Vince Staples (‘Ascension’) and Pusha T (‘Let Me Out’) being the highlights of the project without a doubt. Danny’s psychotic sound works in perfect harmony with the Gorillaz attitude and that makes the song a personal highlight for me. It’s not all smiles in terms of features, though, despite Jehnny Beth of Savages smashing it, the Blur/Oasis duo of Damon Albarn and Noel Gallagher proved a tad disappointing on ‘We Got The Power’ and De La Soul were far from dazzling on ‘Momentz’. I’m also a bit gutted that we didn’t hear more from D.R.A.M. on ‘Andromeda’ but what he does is still very pleasing.
Contextually the album is subterranean and magnificent, as is always the case with a Gorillaz project. The singles unexpectedly became integral pieces of the album’s context, particularly the Vince Staples featured ‘Ascension’ which is faded into play beautifully by the introduction track. The interludes have their place and help the album become a flowing listen despite the colossal feature list.
The album’s production is nothing short of stunning, I truly believe you’ll struggle to hear a collection of beats and instrumentals that are better than the ones on ‘Humanz’ all year. I always knew Damon Albarn was a genius on multiple fronts and this just confirms it. Far away from the cockney cheek of Blur as we now have a triumphant vibe of electronics and synthesisers, it’s almost completely foreign to what you’d hear on a Blur album. ‘Hallelujah Money’ has some magnificent production to go alongside Benjamin Clementine’s ghoulish vocals. The production and style twinned with the features means that this album acts as somewhat of a gateway to neutral listeners, who have now been introduced to artists they didn’t even know existed before they were on a Gorillaz album.
Best 3 songs: Submission, Ascension, Strobelite
Worst 3 songs: We Got The Power, Saturn Barz, Momentz
This is all I wanted from a Gorillaz project and more, I was treated with Damon Albarn’s sensational production, perhaps some of the best he’s ever crafted. We also had some absolutely brilliant features and a wide array of talent and genres throughout the album, helping with the concept and the wackiness of the group. If I had one fault with the album it would be that we just don’t get quite enough of that iconic ‘2-D’ aka Damon Albarn voice through the album, we were only given it in stages. With all things considered, however, it was a worthy sacrifice for the quality of featured artists we were given. I rank this alongside their debut and ‘Plastic Beach’ but it just doesn’t rub shoulders with ‘Demon Days’ which remains a classic of this century.