By Liam Menzies (@blinkclyro)
Whilst it’s common to describe any wait for new material from an artist as “like Frank Ocean”, Gorillaz have been very much synonymous for the word “overdue” in the music landscape. Yes, the band may be more emotive and life-like than most bands despite the fact they’re literally animated but the passion project of Blur frontman Damon Albarn and Jamie Hewlett have arguably been one of the most innovative of the early to mid-noughties, making the six-year wait more agonising than usual.
Speaking to Mista Jam before songs off the upcoming LP HUMANZ were played, Albarn spoke highly of the project, saying “Gorillaz is always this one place where I can just do whatever I like. No blueprint, just a drum machine and a synthesizer” which may explain why it took over half a decade to hear new material.
Much like the classic “you wait ages for a bus and two come at one” situation, the audio equivalent has occurred as four tracks from the new album have dropped: well, officially anyway, leaks have appeared as they always do and the results are just as tantalising as you may imagine. So without further ado, let’s get our teeth into the fictitious adventures of 2D, Murdoc, Noodle and Russel.
ANDROMEDA FT DRAM
Named after a club in Colchester that played soul music during Albarn’s adolescence, ANDROMEDA is expectedly spacy feeling while also incorporating some interesting elements that help to make it something more. There’s the simplistic whirring that many will be accustomed to after the band’s last release but the aforementioned soul influence gives it that extra edge with Albarn’s vocal delivery showing off his trademark versatility.
The sombre projection ties in perfectly with the album’s themes, Albarn described HUMANZ as coming from a dark fantasy which transitions the band into something else, backed up by the almost juxtaposing cheerfulness of DRAM who is just as solid a feature as you may have guessed. All in all, a nice display of evolution while bringing back a few old traits.
SATURNS BARS W/ POPCAAN
The ominousness of Humans is fundamental to the album if Albarn’s statement is anything to go by and no track displays this better than SATURNS BARS. While it may be very reminiscent of the dancehall craze that the majority of chart music is trying to replicate (poorly), the laid back nature that many of these songs channel is absent.
In its place is a dread fuelled epic that is ran by reggae from the beats themselves to the inclusion of none other than Popcaan. The distorted EDM production does the job of creating what feels like the equivalent of a horror house anthem which would probably make an appearance on a poltergeist’s running playlist. From what has been shown from the band thus far, this is undoubtedly the strongest of the bunch.
To summarise, it’s safe to say that Gorillaz aren’t playing it safe. The likes of American Football who have came back after a long hiatus only to return with very little new is thankfully not having an effect on what the band has to offer. Albarn has went into this LP with a vision and so far it’s paying off while not limiting the scope of what Gorillaz have always been trying to push the range of. Come April 28th, we may just have ourselves an AOTY contender.