It doesn’t feel like it was long ago that we were all in anticipation for the new Gorillaz album, after a hiatus that felt like a lifetime the band returned to a mixed reception from hardcore fans with ‘Humanz’. Now, just over a year later, they are back with a less ambitious but more compelling ‘The Now Now’. With a new storyline, new band member and a new(ish) sound, it feels like Damon Albarn and his cartoon alter egos have listened to those craving the old-school hip-hop infused tunes and created something to appeal to the masses.
Somewhat refreshingly, ‘The Now Now’ is made up predominantly of just the core group, with only two tracks having featured artists. It’s also noticeably shorter than the daring 26-track deluxe version of the previous album. Opening with ‘Humility’ the tone of the album is instantly set with sun-soaked synths and lo-fi vocals featuring the legendary George Benson. It feels like Albarn has moved from his hyped-up ‘Humanz’ phase and wants to bring back the sleepy swagger of older releases.
The single, ‘Hollywood’ has more of the bands previous hip-hop tendencies with Snoop Dogg on top form giving more life to the track, rapping with ease, and gliding over the funk-infused synths. Following that, ‘Sorcererz’ has a poppy feel to it with its squidgy bassline as the vocals distantly drift through.
The band sends postcards throughout the album with tracks like ‘Idaho’ incorporating gentle guitars, alien-like synths and crooning vocals. It may be one of the slower songs on the album, but it’s still a nice listen and displays his talent for cinematic lyrics. Meanwhile ‘Lake Zurich’ is undeniably groovy, with cowbells, minimal vocals and heaps of energy, and ‘Magic City’ has the same kind of storytelling quality, but isn’t as memorable.
Then there’s the single ‘Fireflies’ which really demonstrates Albarn’s placing of alter-ego 2-D back in the centre of it all, with that kind of dazed sensitivity as a creative driving force. Closing with ‘Souk Eye’ Albarn proves his skill in low-fi pop, with interesting progression throughout the track and zipping synths in the chorus, making the album a strong summer pop selection.
‘The Now Now’ feels like a welcomed return to old sounds, troupes and swagger. Without relying on big names and heavy beats, the return to electro-infused hip-hop pop gives ‘Plastic Beach’ vibes while offering something fresh. As the cartoon storyline develops (remember Murdoc is trapped in prison) let’s hope the tunes keep coming with just as much vigour and style.
Listen: Gorillaz – The Now Now
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