By Dominic V. Cassidy(@lyre_of_apollo)
Damon Albarn’s virtual band Gorillaz has released their new album after a seven year hiatus. In releasing the album, entitled Humanz, they have proven beyond any measure of a doubt, that they are a consistently excellent band; they are never afraid to reinvent themselves.
When you compare Humanz to other Gorillaz albums, it is immediately very different to the punky sounds of their initial self-titled album, to the electronic mindfuck of Plastic Beach though this is nothing unusual. Gorillaz never sound the same, in fact, sounding different on each of their compositions, changing the whole vibe of a band is something that they use to their advantage.
However something else that is different here is that as a band, the songs and stories usually told by 2D, Murdoc, Russel, and Noodle are all thematically linked: one could go as far as to say Gorillaz albums are like episodes. Humanz, while it does have a solid theme, take it as heavy handedly as in Demon Days, or Plastic Beach. Humanz seems a lot more like the fictional band, making a more concept type album, dealing with the idea of modern life, politics, and discrimination, all wrapped up in a package that feels like dance or house music, but is so profoundly dark that the house from Trainspotting is probably the closest representation.
The album has a paced feel to it: every couple of songs you get a break, a short, buzzing with static, creepy wee bit of speaking. This is how the album starts, with Intro: I Switched My Robot Off, which like a lot of this album can be interpreted in different ways. Stand out tracks on the album would have to be tracks like Charger, which features Grace Jones, and gets into the meat of the song immediately with a Meat Loaf style revving guitar intro before veering from a more rock or punk style which one might have expected, and getting straight into the nodding with the rhythm, and creating a very different sound, like punk rock house music.
It would be hard to write about Humanz and not mention Momentz, which features De La Soul, who previously collabed with 2D and the gang on Feel Good Inc. and Superfast Jellyfish, from Demon Days and Plastic Beach respectively. Momentz has an incredibly industrial sound, with thumping bass and hard drums and cymbals which come and go. The song creates a sense of urgency as it progresses, broken by Alabarn’s vocals and an incongruous, indie sounding verse; but is used to great effect. Enough praise cannot be given De La Soul, he absolutely knocks it out the park on this track and creates the most viable dance track on the album.
Busted and Blue provides a small unlabelled intermission from the thumping drum and bass, and harkens back to the sad electronica and slow vocals delivered to full effect by Albarn. This track in particular does have some very specific Bowie-esque sounds, sounding like a slowed down Space Oddity, but performed by Ripley after the events of Alien.
Humanz, as a piece of music from a technical and empirical point of view, is marvellous: it’s a tour de force of creativity and a masterclass in having an almost overwhelming amount of featuring artists play off of each other so expertly on an album. Something listeners may find in the album is that there has been less adherence to the episodic nature of releases from the band in the past, and while it does not have that feeling of storytelling, it is clear that the Albarn wanted to do something different with the band this time, and it has paid off. With a more compilation style, each song can focus on a different aspect: Momentz on how one spends their time, Let Me Out on racism in America, and Hallelujah Money on the dangers of money.
While not in keeping with much of the Gorillaz’s back catalogue, Humanz carves out a new path, and in doing so finds a fantastic blend of house, dance, rock, and rap music, exemplifying the sound heard throughout the Gorillaz’s discography, mixing it into one coherent, beautiful sound.
While Albarn may play more of a supporting role than the guests making an appearance, Humanz is by far the most diverse and inventive release from Gorillaz so far. Combining the creativity and imagination of Demon Days with the sleek design and polish of Plastic Beach, Albarn’s side project is slowly but surely becoming the man’s magnum opus.
– Liam Menzies (@blnkclyr)
A fairly enjoyable set of songs but does litttle to progress on what we have come to expect of Gorillaz, however is still a perfectly adequate listen with a few standout tracks.
6/10 – Ethian Woodford (@human_dis4ster)
Humanz is a funky, weird and very occasionally creepy (Sex Murder Party, anyone?) album that takes influences from absofuckinglutely everything you can think of. Mad Eurodance, soul, disco, noise rock and that’s just scratching the surface. But at the same time, it still feels quintessentially Gorillaz-y to me and that sure as shit isn’t a bad thing at all. Essential listening.
8.5/10 – Jake Cordiner (@jjjjaketh)
4.5/10 – Harry Sullivan (@radiohedge)
I’m gonna buck the trend here and shoot on the album cover. It frightens the fuck out of me. I get that this album’s called Humanz but this is just scary. Also Murdock looks the dead spit of Liam Gallagher and it’s making me angry.
– Oliver Butler (@notoliverbutler)