Gorillaz are back, and though their Plastic Beach may be behind them, they’re still making waves. Virtual waves, that is – it’s been almost twenty years since the animated feet of Gorillaz first stepped on the music scene, and the brainchild of Damon Albarn and artist Jamie Hewlett shows no signs of fatigue. That said, Gorillaz has moved on, in style and substance; whether it has aged more like posh wine or like Liam Gallagher’s attitude is probably up to personal preference.
Speaking of all things Gallagher: Brit-pop fans rejoice, for Humanz features a collaboration between Albarn and Noel. Blur and Oasis, together at last – do I hear church bells ringing? Could this be the start of something beautiful? Perhaps, perhaps not; thus far, all we’ve got out of it is a decent track (‘We Got The Power’) and some Twitter angst. Besides, Noel is just one face in an entire crowd of collaborators. Like Plastic Beach before it, Humanz is built on an eclectic foundation of featured artists. Also in keeping with what seem to be an overall trend of Gorillaz’s development, the album leans towards the conceptual, although not too aggressively. Lively, bassy and a little quirky, you know you’re in a Gorillaz album. That slightly dirty Gorillaz sound is all still here, but – perhaps because Humanz is a wandering odyssey of an album, clocking in at twenty-six tracks (admittedly most of them short) – it takes on a more musing aspect here.
What are we musing, exactly? Is it the contents of Damon Albarn’s address book? Not that I’m complaining about taking this tour through Gorillaz’s phone contacts; at least these collaborations seem to hold real musical chemistry. Ranging from De La Soul to Grace Jones, Anthony Hamilton to Popcaan, and just about everywhere in between, it’s safe to say that Gorillaz certainly weren’t just phoning it in here, throwing big names at the album for embellishment. Humanz plays out with real creative flair, and is an engaging listen from start to finish.
Blur and Oasis, together at last – do I hear church bells ringing?
Technically, musically, I couldn’t fault Humanz – so when I was left feeling that the album seemed to be missing something, I was initially at loss for what it was. After several further listens, Humanz hasn’t lost its charm, but I know now what it lacks: for all its excellent tracks, the album just doesn’t have any real ‘bangers’. There’s no ‘Clint Eastwood’, no ‘Feel Good Inc.’, no ‘On Melancholy Hill’. That’s not to say that Humanz doesn’t have standout tracks – ‘Ascension’, ‘Saturnz Barz’, ‘Momentz’, and ‘The Apprentice’ to name but a few – they just lack that punch, that ‘fuck yes’ feeling that albums like Demon Days have led us to expect. Whilst the album as a whole is a great listen, it is so on its entirety, not on the back of any specifically outstanding tracks. Perhaps time will tell, and indeed I would love to be proved wrong. For now, Humanz remains a superlatively made album, and one which is sure to warrant a replay – I suppose I’m just holding out for the next ‘DARE’. Hopefully, it’s coming up.