'Humanz' Strays Away From Gorillaz's Typical Sound

'Humanz' Strays Away From Gorillaz's Typical Sound

A review of the latest Gorillaz release
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It’s been seven years since the last Gorillaz album and since I got to see them live at the Patriot Center in DC. Over the course of those seven years Damon Albarn, the mastermind behind the musical side of the Gorillaz, released his first ever solo album, briefly reunited with blur for a new album and tour, started the African funk supergroup Rocket Juice & the Moon with Flea from the Red Hot Chili Peppers and created at least two operatic stage shows with Dr. Dee and wonder.land. The musical madman of has kept busy, organizing one oddball idea after another, exploring a variety of genres and styles, injecting each with his personal brand of English melancholia.

Now with the release of "Humanz," the fourth phase of Gorillaz and the fifth mainline studio album for the group, Damon Albarn has created something dark, upbeat and bathed in synths. "Humanz" is a party album for the end of the world, a final blowout celebration of life and fun and debauchery as an Armageddon of chaos rages outside. It is formed of the same electronic DNA as "Plastic Beach" and "The Fall," yet there is a thickness to its production and thematic darkness reminiscent of "Demon Days'" apocalyptic wonderland. The beats are often bangers, the synths gorgeous and warbled and the vocals range are devious, playful, smirking, and at times, poetic.

The album fits its strange narrative ideas, a discombobulated soundtrack for an “end of the world party” that rushes through phases of melancholy and regret to sinful insanity. It can be seen as narratively disjointed, but to me that works to its advantage, as Damon’s vocals only rarely waft into the thick haze of keyboards and drum machines. Albarn becomes more of a curator for the huge guest list to this grand, debauched finale of humanity and "Humanz" becomes a pseudo-playlist. The narrative is far from linear, even the interludes only act more as a thematic set dressing than some sort of exposition.

What "Humanz" lacks is the classic Gorillaz marriage of organic instrumentals with electronica, opting to focus in on the digital and synthetic. While this works extremely well, many will likely be disappointed by the absence of classic instrumentation being creatively paired with crappy drum machines, ‘80s synths and modern loops. Without the more distinct sounds, it can take a few listens to really pick apart the songs and differentiate them properly. This can be seen as both a success and a shortcoming of the album depending on how you choose to look at it.

On the one hand, it can feel like a slog to those who don’t take the time to dissect the album and its tracks. On the other hand, however, it can become a meandering exploration of this bizarre apocalypse. Fueled by politics, social unrest, and the desperation to remain human through the worst of it all, "Humanz" becomes a wonderland of synthetic madness. It bucks a strict narrative of sound and song in favor of a great, pulsating monstrosity of feelings and thoughts shared over drinks and drugs in a packed club as the world collapses outside.

Cover Image Credit: rapWAVE

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To The Friends I Won't Talk To After High School

I sincerely hope, every great quality I saw in you, was imprinted on the world.
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Hey,

So, for the last four years I’ve seen you almost everyday. I’ve learned about your annoying little brother, your dogs and your crazy weekend stories. I’ve seen you rock the awful freshman year fashion, date, attend homecoming, study for AP tests, and get accepted into college.

Thank you for asking me about my day, filling me in on your boy drama and giving me the World History homework. Thank you for complimenting my outfits, laughing at me presenting in class and listening to me complain about my parents. Thank you for sending me your Quizlets and being excited for my accomplishments- every single one of them. I appreciate it all because I know that soon I won’t really see you again. And that makes me sad. I’ll no longer see your face every Monday morning, wave hello to you in the hallways or eat lunch with you ever again. We won't live in the same city and sooner or later you might even forget my name.

We didn’t hang out after school but none the less you impacted me in a huge way. You supported my passions, stood up for me and made me laugh. You gave me advice on life the way you saw it and you didn’t have to but you did. I think maybe in just the smallest way, you influenced me. You made me believe that there’s lots of good people in this world that are nice just because they can be. You were real with me and that's all I can really ask for. We were never in the same friend group or got together on the weekends but you were still a good friend to me. You saw me grow up before your eyes and watched me walk into class late with Starbucks every day. I think people like you don’t get enough credit because I might not talk to you after high school but you are still so important to me. So thanks.

With that said, I truly hope that our paths cross one day in the future. You can tell me about how your brothers doing or how you regret the college you picked. Or maybe one day I’ll see you in the grocery store with a ring on your finger and I’ll be so happy you finally got what you deserved so many guys ago.

And if we ever do cross paths, I sincerely hope you became everything you wanted to be. I hope you traveled to Italy, got your dream job and found the love of your life. I hope you have beautiful children and a fluffy dog named Charlie. I hope you found success in love before wealth and I hope you depended on yourself for happiness before anything else. I hope you visited your mom in college and I hope you hugged your little sister every chance you got. She’s in high school now and you always tell her how that was the time of your life. I sincerely hope, every great quality I saw in you, was imprinted on the world.

And hey, maybe I’ll see you at the reunion and maybe just maybe you’ll remember my face. If so, I’d like to catch up, coffee?

Sincerely,

Me

Cover Image Credit: High school Musical

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Poetry On The Odyssey: It's a Girl

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