Our generation are victims of a society that encourages the ‘get-up-and-go’ attitude. We’re pretty spoilt for choice when it comes to just about anything so we have to go-go-go to catch ‘em all! So, when it comes to listening to a new album, we have mastered the art of judging it after one listen. If it doesn’t sound catchy right away or we just think it’s ‘boring’ and ‘lame’ it gets sent straight to the trash can. I feel like this is what happened to the notoriously awesome Gorillaz and their latest album, Humanz. Damon Albarn had a rep to uphold with the success of their past albums, but let’s face it, anything he was going to do was going to cause some controversy. Too many people have come up to me saying ‘meh, it was a let-down’, but having listened to the album the whole way through a few times, I am here to say, “I DISAGREE”.
It might be important to realise that this is a concept album. For the less-musically educated amongst you (just kidding – I googled this five minutes ago), it means that the songs on the album stick to a certain theme. On Humanz, I think it goes without saying that the overriding message is pretty political. And, even though Theresa May has done a sterling job at making politics even more comparable to watching paint dry than ever before, only Albarn could turn the fears and ridicule of our beloved friend in the West, Mr Trump, in to a dystopian party album.
‘Let Me Out’ featuring the glorious Mavis Staples and Pusha T is the probably the most powerful song with regards to this. Speaking out about Trump’s racist remarks and the effects that they could have (albeit in extreme terms), Pusha’s rap is as raw and meaningful as it gets:
‘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’.
If you’re all about lyrics, you’re missing out on some potent stuff, and there’s plenty more of that on the album on tracks like Ascension with Vince Staples, Hallelujah Money (featuring Benjamin Clementine) and the brilliant interludes. I’m normally the first person to disregard an interlude, especially when artists like Drake fill their already dreary album with a further two minutes of monotonous sound, but these ones are a real asset to the album. The Non-conformist Oath and Talk Radio are chuckle-worthy, and pretty bold representations of idiotic politicians and our dodgy media. And maybe it’s just me but there was something really funny about an Australian accent just appearing midway through my listening saying ‘Elevator, going up.’ What can I say, it’s a one of a kind humour you signed up for here guys.
I fear I’ve put some of you off listening to Gorillaz’s masterpiece with all this ‘meaning and influence’ chat. But in an attempt to save the songs from severity, many of them are undeniably groovy and fully deserve a few spots on your party playlist. Strobelite is up there with my favourite songs of this year – it’s what makes us at team cowbell go weak at the knees; authentic funk that you can dance to like on Soul Train. I don’t know who Peven Everett is but his voice coupled with an old-school hip-hop beat is enough to get me bopping. Other songs to add to the Friday night soundtrack include Out of Body, The Apprentice (featuring the recently acclaimed Rag‘n’Bone Man) and Andromeda. And then BAM out of the blue (pre-positioned pun), midway through the album, comes Damon Albarn, or more technically 2D’s soliloquy, Busted and Blue (get it?). I love this song for its stripped back, space-like quality, and sounds like it’s being sung by a young Albarn questioning his existence. It stands alone on the album in the beautiful, isolated way that it should.
So there you have it, an album that, if I had to summarise in one word (two if you count the adverb), is just really cool. By pairing up with an existential number of cool artists, old and current, Gorillaz have created a futuristic hip-hop-come-electro album that tackles subjects with a bit more oomph than being broken-hearted and crying over Mary. PLUS, if you were lucky enough to get your hands on some tickets to their live dates (see below) then, as always, you can expect some unreal visuals to accompany the music.
Pump up your parties y’all and free your innovation,
Monday 27th November – Brighton
Wednesday 29th November – Glasgow
Friday 1st December – Manchester
Saturday 2nd December – Birmingham
Monday 4th December & Tuesday 5th December – London 02