By Cole Parker
Parlaphone / Warner Bros.
Gorillaz fans have been waiting a long time for a new album. The group’s last full-scale effort, Plastic Beach, released back in 2010, was a cohesive collection of well-crafted singles met with critical and commercial success.
Though, Gorillaz is not just music. The ‘band’ themselves is a virtual one comprised of cartoon characters. 2-D, Murdoc, Noodle and Russ make up the animated band while former Blur frontman, Damon Albarn (who voices 2-D), is the only permanent musical fixture and comic book artist Jamie Hewlett creates the majority of the group’s visual art.
There’s been a lot of hype built-up around this release, through social media, endless singles, VR apps, listening parties and 350$ deluxe editions. Humanz has not lived up to it.
Albarn describes this album as a soundtrack for a party at the end of the world. For the most part, it succeeds in conveying this theme. “Ascension,” the opening non-interlude track, sets the tone brilliantly. The sirens, chants and breakneck beat that accompany rapper Vince Staples’ racially-driven imagery showcases one of the few instances on the album where all the many elements form a cohesive whole.
Humanz sees Gorillaz’ normally-excellent fusion and disregard for genre fall apart.
On “Momentz,” De La Soul compete with an overdone bass beat out of a mid-aughts club, AutoTune from the worst pop tracks of that era, and a scream-singing group of children before it cuts extremely abruptly to a psychedelic-pop beat with Russ and Murdoc talking mostly nonsense.
It leads into one of the album’s many pointless interludes, this one about a middle-school-angst-fueled “Non-Conformist Oath.” All of these interludes feel extremely unnecessary and strangely only transition from the pre- and proceeding tracks on occasion, breaking up the flow of the album quite a bit.
Other notable lowlights include the tonally-confused “Submission,” the forgettable and awfully-titled “Sex Murder Party,” and the obnoxious “Charger.” One all of these tracks as well as many others on Humanz, the production isn’t nearly as layered as what we’ve come to expect from the band.
Gorillaz knack for crafting a compelling track does shine through on some tracks, though. 2-D introducing himself to the album amidst the Popcaan-fueled trap/dancehall chaos of “Saturnz Barz” is one of the group’s very best musical moments across their entire discography. “She’s My Collar” and “Andromeda” are both fun, spacey dance tracks. “Busted and Blue,” a conventional, but well-written and produced ballad, serves as a reprieve from the hedonistic party of the rest of the record.
While the theme of the album is an interesting and well-executed one, the empty production, mishandled mish-mash of tone and arrangement missteps leads to Humanz likely being a disappointment for many fans.Gorillaz, Humanz, Parlaphone, Warner Bros.