With the release of their fifth studio album, Humanz. Virtual Band the Gorillaz have defied expectations, in more than just one way. Spreading rumours about a new album being in the works last year. Co-founder and voice behind the bands virtual front man, “2D”, Damon Albarn hasn’t been afraid to mix things up a little in this new release. To the dismay of many fans, Albarn and 2D took a backseat to the many, many guest features that appeared on the album.
Vince Staples, Grace Jones, Zebra Katz, Pusha T, Danny Brown and old mates De La Soul, are only a few of the many guests who appear on the album. This has upset many fans, due to it creating less room for 2D’s iconic voice to pop up. However, it in-turn introduces an interesting, unique, and political theme to the album. Humanz is “…a party album for a world gone mad.”, discussing themes such as racism, mental health, and military interventions. It has been substituted with more freedom for the guest features to fully explore the lyrics, music, and meaning behind their input. In-turn this creates a unique sound which the band hasn’t explored quite like this before. This has allowed the politics and commentary of the guest vocalists to speak louder than they would have, if this album was released earlier in their discography. Despite these changes, much like with every new release from the band, Humanz is distinctly Gorillaz in-sound, with all the quirks that you’d expect to hear from an album of theirs. You can still distinctly hear all the members, and their impact on the album, with 2D’s soft voice appearing in the background of most songs. Taking centre-stage on one of the albums most atmospheric tracks, “Busted and Blue”. A song which sparks an interesting conversation regarding technology’s role in the modern-day world, and the consequences that could come from our over-reliance on the Internet as a source of entertainment, knowledge, and most of our time.
Noodle’s enthusiasm and youthfulness is also very apparent. Russell’s funky and head-bumping drum beats lays the foundation for most tracks. You even get a sense of Murdoc’s somewhat disturbed and perverse personality while listening to the album. Humanz is still very much a Gorillaz record. While it mightn’t sound anything like their chart-topping and fan-favourite Demon Days album. Neither did Plastic Beach, The Fall, or their debut release. Humanz follows the trend that the Gorillaz have always followed, and that’s to change their sound. To evolve. Humanz is an album that sounds the way it does because of the world it was born into. The reason why some people are unwilling to take the step into embracing this album, is because those people are what inspired the record to take the form it has. It reflects the world we live in through each track, and does a good job at it.
Songs such as Ascension (featuring a personal favourite rapper of mine, Vince Staples), are prime examples of songs that reflect the modern times, discussing the topics of racism, inequality and police brutality. Without even listening to the lyrics you can feel that the atmosphere in which the song creates is one of a young man, not fighting hard to get his voice out, but instead ranting due to exasperation and confusion, as to why the words he’s saying even need to be said. Vince Staples, the other guest features, and the forever-present Gorillaz vibe this album emits, all help to make this record what it is – a f***ing amazing album.