Gorillaz fifth studio album Humanz brings modern day sounds and messages into new yet familiar territory. Damon Albarn showed no fear stepping into current topics of politics and racism and in return brought back the Gorillaz in a big way. Moving from their trademark gloomy sound to a more uplifting and positive tone shows an energetic and creative period for our favorite fictional band.
However, Humanz greatest strength is also its greatest weakness. The record almost sounds as though the virtual group sat in the producers chair instead of the recording studio. Albarn, or more respectively 2-D, makes very few appearances on the album and almost every guest artist on the recordings takes the lead. Although rappers like Vince Staples and De La Soul hold their own, one can’t help but miss the addition of the original band members.
There is familiarity throughout the record though. Songs like ‘Strobelite‘ give a flashback to the timeless sounds of Parliament Funkadelic while ‘Ticker Tape‘ lends a melancholic remembrance of what the Gorillaz is all about. The first interlude of ‘The Non-Conformist Oath‘, although taken from Steve Martin, brings back the experimentation and free independent thoughts of albums like Demon Days.
Humanz all in all proves to be a huge step forward for the Gorillaz. With both Plastic Beach and The Fall, Albarn seemed to be hitting a creative wall within the confines of the group and Humanz showed a much needed innovative release under the Gorillaz umbrella. Some critique the new sound as akin to a house party playlist with songs like ‘We Got The Power‘ and ‘Charger‘, but in today’s ever depressingly news filled and expanding world, maybe that’s just what the world needs. After all, the message is still loud and clear. Just listen to ‘Hallelujah Money‘.