Gorillaz - Humanz
Humanz is a crazy album full of completely different styles all trying to somehow blend at once, when this works the results are mind blowing, when it doesn’t however it’s painfully mediocre,
It’s been seven long years since we last had a Gorillaz record (2010’s Plastic Beach) and it’s pretty fair to say the world has changed significantly since then, when Damon initially got the group together again and started to reach out to potential collaborators he told them one thing “Imagine Trump wins and it’s the end of the world”, the music that comes out of this vision is ‘Humanz’ and isjust what you’dimagine would be blaring out at the earth’s last house party.
Gorillaz are no stranger to bringing along a few friends however this record definitely has a higher portion of guests than usual, Damon and the Gorillaz take much more of a backseat than on previous albums, this then sometimes makes the record feel like more of a compilation than a concise album, even to the point in which you think you’ve left your device on shuffle. This is not a criticism but it does leave the album at parts feeling confused with some tracks struggling to live up to the greatness of others.
It’s easily been my most anticipated record of this year so far and in a lot of aspects it really delivers, the album opens with preview single ‘Ascension’ a big track with an even bigger message, Vince Staples roars throughout at lightning speed, he’s ferocious and provocative with lyrics referencing racial tensions and even lynching.
‘Strobelite’ I feel could have really done with Damon on lead vocals, something which like I said earlier is very rare but when it does appear such as in the following track ‘Saturnz Barz’ truly defines the track as he dreamily sings “I’m a debaser, I’m a heartbreaker” alongside the reggae infused stylings of popcaan, truly an inspired choice. ‘Momentz’ is a missed opportunity which misfires completely with it’s backing beat coming across more annoying than anything else, it’s definitely not a follow up to ‘Feel Good inc’ and a sad waste of De La Soul.
‘Submission’ is definitely a step in the right direction with Danny Brown as scene stealing as ever on his track with one hell of a wicked verse, Kelela also certainly makes an impact with her vocals. ‘Charger’ turns the album back up to 11 with one of the albums guest highlights, the fantastic Grace Jones who duets with Damon mesmerisingly to an increasingly intense riff that doesn’t let up.
‘Andromeda’ marks the centrepiece of the album, it’s easily one of the best tracks and ironically the one chance where Damon actually gets to take lead with DRAM putting in an inspired guest segment, however it’s the magical synths that really elevate the track to another level, it’s truly the ultimate Gorillaz chill jam. ‘Busted and Blue’ is the only track to feature no one other than Gorrilaz and it pays off massively, a mix of ‘On Melancholy Hill’ Gorillaz and ‘Magic Whip’ styled Blur, it’s beautiful and could fit on either of Damon’s projects easily.
‘Carnival’ is only 2 minutes long and comes across as more of a sermon than a song it’s good but far too short to stand out on the record, it does manage to lead into my personal highlight of the album though ‘Let Me Out’. It’s part Mavis Staple’s gospel powerhouse, part Pusha T political statement, part Gorillaz commentary but when put together it’s all parts brilliant. Three different vocal styles mix organically to make one hell of an inspiring track. When it debuted at Printworks it got played twice due to the crowds ferocious reaction and it only takes one listen to easily see why, I can’t wait to hear it played for myself this winter.
I haven’t found myself coming back to ‘Sex Murder Party’ which thankfully isn’t as silly as the name suggests but it’s definitely not crazy or compelling like implied. ‘She’s My Collar’ is an understated and solid track but falls into that filler zone annoyingly present on the album, redeemably it does provide a nice little feature for upcoming Kali Uchis however whose closing verse really shines the spotlight on her unique tones.
The album manages to finish very strong , the first taste of the record we got was way back when Donald Trump got elected, the mercury award winning Benjamin Clementine features on‘Hallelujah Money’ which is an inspired jab at global cooperations, the track continues to get grander over it’s runtime before the big choir finale, it’s manages to be surprisingly moving and haunting at the same time, a real delight even if it does feel even more out of place than the rest of the tracks.
The band choose to go out on a more inspiring note though, a wise choice as the record ends on a message of goodwill and unison with ‘We Got The Power’ (ironically featuring long term rival turned friend Noel Gallagher), it’s a powerful message with a lot going on, Jehnny Beth (of Savages) and Damon are a fantastic pairing, playing off each others strengths, where as when it’s performed live it can sometimes come across at an annoyingly slow tempo, the studio version roars along to reach a fantastic climax to the record.
A quick note, there are two deluxe versions of the album, the main one which features 6 extra tracks and is widely available contains a track that most definitely should have been included on the main release and that’s ‘The Apprentice’ a track which takes Rag N Bone Man’s soulful tones and use’s them in surprising yet inspired ways. the other 5 tracks are much more experimental yet still quite enjoyable, if your interested I also recommend ‘Out Of Body’ which is as trippy as the title suggests. The other deluxe is the super vinyl collection which is unfortunately sold out and contains another 14 tracks!, it doesn’t arrive until August but we’ll hopefully get our hands on the tracks upon release to review for you.
Humanz is a great return from the Gorillaz and I’ll happily recommend it to anyone, I feel it manages to truly have something for everyone inside it with some of the best song’s I’ve heard this year (Andromeda, Let Me Out, Saturnz Barz) but keep in mind if your expecting some classic throwbacks to that traditional Gorillaz sound you won’t be finding it here.