Deep into the claws of 21st Century (and I don`t mean Fox), where technology threatens not only to drive us into the square feet six-cube and retain our health completely, but also pose a serious worry to a question “what may happen if machines took over subconsciously”, we are still at the very beginnings of substantial world discovery. In a place where virtual life basically controls the sanity, everything gets affected. It shaped us and changed the view on a world around us.
Nothing less has been going in the art or culture department. When music comes to stage, one band has made an influence so big, that even the birds know its frequencies. The virtual 4-member band, created by two-member guys, musician Damon Albarn and artist Jamie Hewlett, named Gorillaz is back on our HD screens for their fifth studio album titled, ironically-intriguing, “Humanz”.
The album is supposedly inspired by the not so well received political change in the country by the Gorillaz leader Damon, an yet holds no actual mentions of any politician`s name. “Humanz” features a stack full of amazing guest-artist that Albarn called up and by the first critiques, it bears their unusually-usual signature pitches. Let`s call up the crazy Monkeys and fire up the woods!
Humanz Track List
01) “Intro: I Switched My Robot Off” (Feat. Ben Mendelsohn)
02) “Ascension” (Feat. Vince Staples)
03) “Strobelite” (Feat. Peven Everett)
04) “Saturnz Barz” (Feat. Popcaan)
05) “Momentz” (Feat. Ben Mendelsohn and De La Soul)
06) “Interlude: The Non-conformist Oath”
07) “Submission” (Feat. Danny Brown & Kelela)
08) “Charger” (Feat. Grace Jones)
09) “Interlude: Elevator Going Up”
10) “Andromeda” (Feat. D.R.A.M.)
11) “Busted And Blue”
12) “Interlude: Talk Radio”
13) “Carnival” (Feat. Anthony Hamilton)
14) “Let Me Out” (Feat. Mavis Staples & Pusha T)
15) “Interlude: Penthouse”
16) “Sex Murder Party” (Feat. Jamie Principle & Zebra Katz)
17) “She’s My Collar” (Feat. Kali Uchis)
18) “Interlude: The Elephant”
19) “Hallelujah Money” (Feat. Benjamin Clementine)
20) “We Got The Power” (Feat. Jehnny Beth and Noel Gallagher)
21) “Interlude: New World”
22) “The Apprentice” (Feat. Rag’n’ Bone Man, Zebra Katz, and RAY BLK)
23) “Halfway To The Halfway House” (Feat. Peven Everett)
24) “Out Of Body” (Feat. Kilo Kish, Zebra Katz, and Imani Vonshà)
25) “Ticker Tape” (Feat. Carly Simon and Kali Uchis)
26) “Circle Of Friendz” (Feat. Brandon Markell Holmes)
Alternative Electric Vibing
The Sci-fi thriller crack-opens the door to “Humanz” with short intro after which first collaborative jam kicks in. Produced by The Twilite Tone, Remi Kabaka and Damon Albarn, “Ascension” calls for the big human rise. Its unique alternative notes drive the listener into something new, yet very Gorillaz-like approachable.
After landing the UFO boat, we drop into the 80`s loophole where soulful music awaits. Paven Everett delivers a mesmerizing singing dubs, offering love and peace and staying at the same pathway of “syncing to one”.
With “Saturnz Barz”, we switch the genre again and dive into the Reggae tonality. Popcaan helps with that, presenting a seriously dope lines with his catchy raw vocal.
Heavily distorted Kanye West-wicked grooves in “Momentz” with Ben and De La Soul didn`t impress me at all. It is way to tricky. I mean trippy. Way to much for me. The message is there, but the overall instructional production not that much.
More Of That Computer Music With Inner Soul Tapping
After another interlude where “uniqueness”, “difference” and “distinctiveness” is rallied, we stomp deeper into Gorillaz wickedness or fast-constructed computer music. The next single is softened up thanks to wonderful vocal of Kalela. She simply kills with soul-matching words, opening the song with:
“Don’t try to hide away
You know you’ve been on
Though I’m keeping calm, I’m not on
Go away my love
Thought I could change our fate
I tried again, but there’s delay
It’s more than I can take”.
Filling in the batteries with a bit slower tempo, the “Charger” plugs-in that electric guitar riffing, withholding the entire beat`s lane. In another version of edge-psychotic rendition Grace Jones magically turns from junkie woman to soul warrior, teasing you to taste that Vampire bite.
The elevator took us up couple of floors and slide to a place with a bit dumbed-down notes. D.R.A.M joins the track to give ode to one of Damon`s friend`s mother who loved astrology, but also a soul club in Colchester that Albarn used to go to at the 80`s. Hence the old-school instrumentation make-up.
Magical Gorilla World
The only track with no feature collaborations is this one. The “Busted And Blue”, tries to answer couple of Damon`s concerns over the internet mania, but can also be re-translated as a love letter. Very emotional touch with melody on solo mode.
The next two singles are first two favorite “Humanz” picks. One of my most loving singers, Anthony Hamilton jumps in on the mic, to ensemble another poem about love. While falling in love with this girl, she casts a spell on a main character and spins him like a “Carnival”.
Second best on the album is Pusha-T mutual work of politically-centered joint called “Let Me Out”. Siren-censored key words like “Obama”, “together”, and “Trump” in the first verse explain the seriousness of the track`s message. One of my favorite ones, Push breaks it down for the people in his high-praised style:
“Look into my eyes, mama, tell me what you see
Tell me there’s a chance for me to make it off the streets
Tell me that I won’t die at the hands of the police
Promise me I won’t outlive my nephew and my niece
Promise me my pastor isn’t lyin’ as he preach
Tell me that they’ll listen if it’s lessons that I teach
Tell me there’s a heaven in the sky where there is peace
But until then, I keep my piece in arm’s reach”.
Elevator Top Suite Stop
Entering the penthouse apartment, a door opens to another psychedelic party. “Sex, Murder Party” with Jamie Principle and Zebra Katz translates to a new alternative electronic era. Seems like main author is still in obsession mode over this crazy love poison.
Mutually odd, but much catchier is after party joint “She`s My Collar”, a multi-dimensional beat by the Twilite-Remi-Damon production trio. Its dramatic lines split into thousand thoughtful questions or the relationship roles, which is especially gassed with this verse by Kali Uchis:
“I’m yellow, he was blue
It’s nothing that he could hide
We made agreement though
Whenever we were so alive
I died a thousand times
I did what I had to do
Hey, that’s just how it goes
I’m still coming back to you”.
Back To Political Debating
A new dive into the political waters was presented with “Hallelujah Money” featuring Benjamin Clementine. It`s a ease of musical waving crawling through the corrupted political stances in the US today. The bridge opens a couple of crucial things to ponder upon with:
“How will we know?
When the morning comes
We are still human
How will we know?
How will we dream?
How will we love?
How will we know?”.
Much brighter “We Got The Power” featuring Jehnny Beth and Noel Gallagher tries to answer the previously submitted questions. Calling the good powers of the people to rise and fight the badly influenced energy is the main message here. Still hanging in the 80`s power-blush history of the instrumental foundation.
Humanz Spiritual Deluxe Pack
Deluxe part of the Gorillaz`s “Humans” holds five tracks. Interlude announces the “new world” as we transition to much smoother melodies with that Soul/R`n`B/Rap vibes. “The Apprentice” may just be the most impressive song on the album. Made with Rag’n’ Bone Man, Zebra Katz, and RAY BLK, this soul food jam dresses your spirit with your sassy ego in one elegantly sewed suit. It still sharply sticks to the political theme, with Zebra Katz`s slamming bars:
“Yo, new black king, New York dream
Tell these motherfuckers everything I’m seeing
My world’s darker than the young black dream
Of the first black prince of a new white king
I just wanna play, have it my way
Make a bunch of fucking rules, then tell ’em obey
They can’t fuck with me, yeah, yeah, Ojay
First name, government? No, him, I slay”.
Approaching the end and we are definitely not “Halfway To The Halfway House”. But Paven Everett is. He goes back in the booth to shape-sign another gospel-like track. This jam reminds of something Seal would do now.
New invitation to an out-of-body science-fiction party is given in “Out Of Body”. With amazing rap embodiment of Kilo Kish, and soulful Gospeling by stoking Imani Vonshà, the beat stays trippy, but the message stays super-massive. It scratches the thick surface on the negative influence of the one-mass mentality.
Trump`s Ticker Tape
Sonic ballad “Ticker Tape” again reflects a Donald Trump`s speech on the directive of humanity. The ironic word crossroad beautifully sing-assembled by Carly Simon and Kali Uchis pokes the opponent side intelligently. The bridge is crossed in this pace:
“Black light glints with colour
Sudden long and horizontal outlines the star
A sudden draft and quick chill
A single snowflake falls
And that is all
That is all
The world’s face hidden under falling wind
Waiting for the world to start again
Waiting for the world to start again
Waiting for the world to start again
Waiting for the world… again”.
Closing with the “Circle Of Friendz”, with Brandon Markell Holmes, the string-sustained track loops around the title words giving listeners a final closure. The head message pushed here was implemented to rise the presence of importance of that small circle of friendly love and support, showing that, no matter the time, type of problem and character, having the circle of friends is the ultimate salvation.
What Will Be The Human Number
After another thorough review, Damon Albarn and his Gorillaz did not impress me that much. Regardless of this being not even close to Hip Hop or R`n`B, maybe slightly bending towards Gospel and Soul, but only in singing matter, down on the production side, it failed to keep up with the Gorillaz authenticity. Yet, it is different and completely unheard, “Humanz”`s best attribute is the lyrical messages that stay behind.
Those four imaginary guys and their band will not easily be forgotten, not even after this fifth studio attempt, but as for my personal overlook at the whole piece, it can only be seated at the no. 5.5 out of 10 spot.
For your side of the critique, grab their “Humanz” story here or Spotify below. Until the next one!