Gorillaz – Humanz (2017) album review

 

After seven years, we have finally be graced with a new album from the imaginary band, Gorillaz. My friends and I have been highly anticipating their latest album, discussing our excitement since we heard they were working on new material.

I remember being eight years old, wandering through the local Fopp! shop with my mum, and being intrigued by an album cover which bared four cartoon characters on it, looking edgy as heck (back when edgy poses were actually cool, rather than cringey). Of course, I’m referring to their hit album, Demon Days. While I’ve been listening to the band since then, I wouldn’t say I’ve been a fan for that long – at that age I didn’t appreciate some of the beauty and genius shown in some of the tracks, like “El Mañana” and “O Green World”. But, since my music taste has matured over the years, I have come to a point where I can call myself a fan and openly discuss what I like and dislike and give reasons for those opinions.

With that, I’d like to show my feelings towards their latest release, Humanz, through an image:

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Yep. I think that about sums it up.

Straight up, I envy you if you fully enjoy this album. With the sneak-peaks on their YouTube channel prior to the release of the full album on March 23rd, I was already a bit underwhelmed by what they were offering us. I tried to not let this lower my expectations too much, but ultimately I think it’s better that it did; if my expectations were any higher, I’d be too mad to even write about it.

What in particular don’t I like about this album? My main issue with it is that most the songs are very repetitive and/or forgettable. It’s missing something that their previous albums have always kept hold of through their changing styles. Hm, what could it be…? Ah, yes, it’s missing the band.

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By this, I don’t mean the real life creators of Gorillaz (Damon Albarn and Jamie Hewlett), but the characters of the band. Since their first album, there’s been an attitude to their music that you can pinpoint as being influenced by each character. If you’re unfamiliar with the backgrounds of the characters, I recommend you watch MicDrop’s 107 facts on them. Each character of the band has a darkness in their past, each of them expressing this through their musical abilities (sometimes unconsciously, like with Del tha Ghost Rapper, the collective ghost that possesses Russel Hobbs); this was also the explanation for the different influences in their music, allowing them to expand past genre constrictions.

Not only is the band’s personalities missing from this (especially Murdoc), but also they are literally missing from a lot of the music. 2D’s vocals are missing completely from some tracks, and there is literally only one song on the entire record that isn’t featuring another artist.

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As I said earlier, it’s probably a good thing I was underwhelmed by the tracks they gave us before the album release; if I hadn’t heard them beforehand, I would have gone into this with higher expectations and would have been way more disappointed (similarly to Grimes’ Art Angels and The xx’s I See You). I’d say this album is about what I’d expected from the pre-released songs. What makes this different from other albums that have disappointed me is that my expectations were pretty much met here, and there are also more tracks that I enjoyed. Don’t get me wrong, I do think the songs overall are highly forgettable (and boring), some even sounding similar to each other – like “Submission‘s” drum beat sounding like a slower version of that from “Momentz“; but there are three I liked enough to save to my Spotify library.

Without a doubt, my favourite track is “Momentz“; from the opening to the catchy beat, to the use of different vocal types, to the fact that I actually kinda wanna dance – a welcome change to most the tracks which are easily just backing tunes for me.

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Despite my overall negative tone on this piece, I don’t hate this album. I just find it rather lacklustre from a band with so much history and thought put into. I understand that a lot of work goes into each album, beyond working on the actual music, they then: come up with a backstory for each of the characters and what they’ve done since we last saw them; a plot to follow through the music videos released along side it; the art that goes into their new designs as their sound changes; on top of any additional characters that will be shown through the plot of the videos; actually animating them in the videos, and on stage. It’s a lot, and I’m sure it can be overwhelming and tough at times – especially when you have built such a large audience and fanbase. But if there’s a lack of interest to keep working on the project (which may especially be true due to all the other stuff Albarn and Hewlett have been doing since the 2010 release of Plastic Beach), I’d personally rather see the band fade away than them slowly kill it with unimaginative content.

If you’d like to see my notes on each song, here is a link to browse through my thoughts.

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