Gorillaz have recently announced their latest exploration through music into the thrilling yet dark abyss we know. It comes in the form of Humanz, a 20 track bonanza (25 if you buy the Deluxe edition). It’s due to come out April 28 on digital, CD and vinyl.
We haven’t really heard much from Gorillaz since their last single Do Ya Thing back in 2012. Other than the band’s artist Jamie Hewlett teasing fans with images of the fictional animated band members on his Instagram. They then went on to release small stories telling stories of the last few years about the four animated members’ life. Noodle fought a shapeshifting demon, Russel became a prisoner and tourist destination, 2D got himself stranded on a desert island and Murdoc ran from a gang of undead that he owed his soul to. All pretty basic stuff for the band.
This was then followed up by the release of an anti-Donald Trump music video for a new song called Hallelujah Money. This protest piece comes from a collaboration with poet Benjamin and discusses the band’s anger regarding the United States’ 45th president Donald Trump. The video for the song is set entirely in the lift of Trump Tower with ‘name here’ performing against images of atrocities and occasionally a shadow puppet of fictional singer 2D. This song wasn’t received as well by some as others as it got very mixed reviews but, in my opinion, it is a great song. Benjamin’s voice feels perfect for this song, with Gorillaz frontman Damon Albarn’s soft vocals in the chorus helping the song to float along in its odd ethereal way.
More recently the band has suffered from various leaks of information, the track listing for the new album before their announcement, some stage lighting demos were also leaked on Vimeo through a stage technician’s account, who is now worshipped as somewhat of a god on the Gorillaz Subreddit. Damon and Co (or Murdoc and Co) have persevered none the less and released all the good details on Humanz any fan could wish for. They also released four new tracks including a fully animated brand new video for the track Saturnz Barz which features Jamaican songwriter and DJ Popcorn (most known for his work with Drake and Jamie xx).
Saturnz Barz is an odd but incredible track, it’s dancehall meets whatever you would call Gorillaz’ other work. The song has a medium pace, being mainly carried by Pocaan’s vocals with Albarn (as 2D) bringing in a lot of spacey, calm and melancholic verses throughout it. The video, which is also in 360° for those of you who own VR headsets or just enjoy 360° videos, features the band members exploring a spooky haunted house. It then gets weirder due to a demon creature (Popcaan) haunting the band in various forms, one of which is a floating slice of pizza with a face on. Murdoc ends up completely naked and floating through space whilst 2D plays gold on an asteroid. Although weird, once again, it’s pretty basic stuff for the band and is to be expected.
The other tracks that were released were Ascension (ft Vince Staples) , Andromeda (ft D.R.A.M.) and We Got The Power (ft Noel Gallagher and Jehnny Beth) all of which had snippets played in the Saturnz Barz video and have simple animations to go with them that tie the videos together.
Ascension feels like the furthest Gorillaz have strayed from their original punk/rock influences and styles, It features a heavily dance/club music influenced beat starting with an air raid type siren and then it kickstarts into a fast paced drum and bass type beat. Vince Staples raps over most of the track with Damon/2D coming in roughly half way through with a verse as the song becomes more synthy. The video pans across a neighbourhood showing meteors falling every time the chorus of “The sky’s falling baby/drop that ass ‘fore it crash” is sung and eventually ends up outside the house that the Saturnz Barz video is set in.
Andromeda is a much calmer and slower song with soft vocals from Damon and harmonies from D.R.A.M. It feels like a stone throw away from a house song due to it’s beat. The swirling synths in the song are very reminiscent of a couple tracks from their 2010 album Plastic Beach, Empire Ants and Broken especially. It’s a beautiful track and it’s accompanied by visuals of the planet we see Murdoc nakedly float around in the Saturnz Barz video.
We Got The Power is a powerful call to arms by the band, a call to the arms of loving one another. It’s the final track on the album according to all tracklists and it certainly feels like it. Even Albarn agrees “It’s sort of the song that comes on during the final titles of a film. The climax” he told Radio X in an interview before two of their new songs were released. It’s a lovely upbeat track that features Noel Gallagher of Oasis singing with Albarn on the chorus and Jehnny Beth of Savages.
All in all the album is shaping up to be one of their best so far, which is saying a lot since their other albums exist. They played the entirety of Humanz live at a secret gig in London on March 24 and from what we’ve heard through varying different periscopes and live streams, it sounds incredible.