Gorillaz eagerly awaited fourth album Humanz has been seven years coming and delivers a slightly different direction to their previous efforts.
The album begins with one of many kooky interludes, the narrator telling us that he has turned his robot off as we venture into the first track.
Ascension sets the initial tone of the album, which is distinctly more EDM than what we are used to from Gorillaz. The air raid siren gives the listener the impression that a bomb is going to be dropped and when the beat kicks in Vince Staples delivers some damned smooth lyrics over a classic house style beat.
Strobelite ventures into disco territory. Peven Everett adds a silky vocal line, though at times it feels the verses are a bit verbose, but the track is saved by a very catchy hook in the chorus delivered by Everett and the backing vocalists.
The first of the standout tracks is Saturnz Barz which takes old school sci-fi sound effects and combines it with some heavy dub. Being a slower number it wouldn’t be having people rushing to the d-floor, but it’s suitably atmospheric and still holds its own. Popcann adds to the dub vibes with his raps and Damon Albarn really sets the tone with the chorus in signature Gorillaz fashion.
De La Soul return to feature on another Gorillaz album with Momentz. The tune begins sounding like classic 90s techno, the MCs drop the lyric “shivers down my back bone” just as you get a shiver down your back bone. This track will have you stomping hard.
Submission would be the weakest of the tracks on Humanz. The song gives Kelela a chance to show her vocal prowess, and it has some curious sounds and samples happening in the periphery. Danny Brown features with his recognisable vocal style.
Those of us with leanings towards industrial music will certainly appreciate Charger. Another standout, Albarn delivers an intriguing vocal through the course of the song. Grace Jones adds a vintage jazz tone to landscape which puts a real twist in the feel.
Andromeda is another off world and atmospheric tune, returning to the dub vibe from earlier. Getting to the middle of the album Albarn takes more of a frontline vocally, and Busted and Blue begins like something from an episode of Twin Peaks. A melancholic track, it ends giving you the sense of a love song based on a story like Blade Runner. There is some amazing use of synth throughout.
On the next couple of tracks Albarn returns to back seat. Carnival sounds like something that belongs in an 8-bit Role Playing Game, and makes great use of the pause during the track. Let Me Out continues the 8-bit gaming vibe but it begins to take a pretty spooky turn. In the background of the song the words “let me out” are whispered giving you the sense that someone is right behind you.
Sex Murder Party keeps the creep factor going with an eerie harpsichord riff. A very sombre themed track perfectly captured in the lyric “dissolve the keys in the tears of your priorities”.
The album becomes more upbeat, as Albarn takes the front seat once again. She’s My Collar keeps up the eighties synth sound, telling a story of running away with a lover. Hallelujah Money is a very strange track. With Mercury Prize winner Benjamin Clementine’s off timed vocal the track is quirky, but unusually appealing. The song really captures the religious fervour society’s infatuation with money seems to have, and presents it with an endearing element of humour.
Humanz wraps up with a huge note of positivity on We Got the Power. Featuring Noel Gallagher and vocals from Savages’ Jehnny Beth, it’s the kind of song that one would have be careful listening to on the bus, as you may spontaneously hug someone. The track is an unexpected final turn on what often feels like a primarily dark album.
The heavy use of synths gives this album a very 80s feel, with a strong element of classic EDM. Certainly an interesting journey for the listener, Humanz is the kind of record you could quite comfortably put on at a dinner party and your guests would be forgiven for thinking that you’ve put on a pretty good mix tape. The variance in the guest vocalists, and the curious course that Gorillaz take you on make the album very easy to listen to, and certainly won’t bore you.