Hosting a party is easy, as long as you can get your different friend groups to play nice, keep everyone engaged, and don’t disappear for a smoke or three.
Gorillaz – Humanz
released April 28, 2017
Gorillaz are an English virtual cartoon band created by Damon Albarn and artist Jamie Hewlett of Tank Girl fame. This band is made up of 2-D (lead vocals, keyboards), Murdoc Niccals (bass guitar and vocals), Noodle (guitar, keyboards), and Russel Hobbs (drums and percussion).
The fictional universe of Gorillaz is constructed by the music Albarn creates and their personas have been formed by the collaborations Albarn has orchestrated with other artists whom have made sense creatively with the otherworldly sounds of the band. Plus Hewlett adds visual flavour in album covers, concept art, and music videos, among other things. And all of this has worked over the current four phases of Gorillaz history. None of it ever feels quite real, and yet it is familiar because the quartet address issues of our time, albeit through their cartoon lens of mystery.
It’s all quite heady and fun.
And that’s because Gorillaz are combining rock, rap, electronica, reggae, pop, trip hop, and an assortment of other sounds together to evoke the feelings needed to build these worlds, and Albarn has been fairly consistent throughout this journey.
But it’s also been seven years since The Fall, and the end of Phase Three – Escape To Plastic Beach.
Phase Four – We Are Still Humanz catches us up on what has been happening with Noodle, Murdoc, Russel, and 2-D, and its been interesting. Lots of references to their time at Plastic Beach, and even incorporation of social media into their lives, but of particular note is how Gorillaz used YouTube to tease the albums release, adding new videos about a month ahead of the official worldwide release date.
Featuring performances from Anthony Hamilton, Jehnny Beth, Mavis Staples, Vince Staples, Peven Everett, D.R.A.M., Jamie Principle, Danny Brown, Grace Jones, Zebra Katz, Del La Soul, Benjamin Clementine, Kelela, Popcaan, Pusha T., and Kali Uchis, each track runs its own course; some faring better than others, but the interludes helping to form a post-apocalyptic story following the US presidency of Donald Trump.
And it’s entertaining. A party for the end of the world, with each room being all the more appealing and with its own decor. Though I have to wonder if staging a house party with club music is really the right solution to the scenario at hand, after all, you’re still at the house. On top of that consideration is the challenge that frontman 2-D is notably absent from a lot of the tracks, this seems to be more of a free-for-all than a bonafide representation of these artists as a voice for Gorillaz.
That said, it’s kinda exciting to see the younger generation getting excited about artists unfamiliar to them through the looking glass that Albarn so deftly supplies. This is his project you know, and he’ll invite whoever he wants to party with him. Plus, he’s cool enough that these new friends will rub off on you.
If you’ve ever listened to Clint Eastwood or Feel Good Inc. before, you can probably forgive Gorillaz for sounding a bit disjointed on this effort. Besides, the interludes help give this record a sense of continuity, even if 2-D isn’t there often enough to keep up with his hosting duties. Maybe Murdoc will finally step in, we know he wants to be lead anyway.