“The sky’s falling baby, Drop that ass ‘fore it crash”

Everyone’s favourite Blur front man is back with his band of animated primates.

It’s been seven years since the last proper Gorillaz album, 2010’s ‘Plastic Beach’ (although there was a studio album released for free to fans on Christmas that year, a singles compilation in 2011 and a promotional single with Andre 3000 and James Murphy in 2012).

For a while there it looked like it might not happen, but Noodles, 2D, Murdoc and Russel have returned with a Double Album, Humanz, and as always they’ve brought a bunch of famous friends along.

Humanz isn’t as immediately catching as 2005’s Demon Days, and isn’t likely to be quite as successful, but it did impress on me enough to warrant subsequent listens, and as I listened I started to get what Damon and his all-star collaborators have created.

Vince Staples guests on the opening track; the bouncy dance number, Ascension, and the hook reveals the theme of this album, “The sky’s falling, baby Drop that ass ‘fore it crash”, it’s all gonna be over soon,  let’s party while we can. They call it a party album for the end of the world.

It’s catchy alt-pop with a message that isn’t immediately apparent, but is no less powerful; a concept album that tells the story of the decline of humanity, but leaves with a message of hope.

We’re taken on a journey from humanities loss of connection (‘Strobelite’ and ‘Saturn Barz’) and control (‘Submission’ and ‘Charger’), finding reprieve, as so many of us do, in a Nightclub (‘Andromeda’) before we explore humanities effort to distract itself, through the Internet (‘Busted and Blue’ ) and consumerism (‘Carnival’), finally falling to despair (‘Let Me Out’). The first track released from the album, ‘Hallelujah Money’ is a slow gospel inspired track worshiping Humanities new God, the dollar. The album then turns a corner and turns up the energy with the intensely positive ‘We’ve Got the Power’. ‘Out of Body’ finds the connection humanity has been missing on the dance floor, whilst ‘Ticker Tape’ eschews the advantage and risks of our technological drive. The final track, ‘Circle of Friendz’ offers humanity a way out of their peril, through maintaining and finding strength in a close circle of friends.

Musically, the album is far more varied than previous releases, highlighted by the sudden transition from the slow, haunting “Hallelujah Money’ to the high energy positivity of ‘We Got The Power’. Gorillaz are representing the dualistic nature of our current society. On the one hand we are richer and more capable than any point in history, whilst on the other we are destroying our planet at an alarming rate.  The melancholy Daman Albarns puts into his voice when singing as 2D, contrasted with the powerful vocalists that helped make this album, forthing highlights this duality.

Highlights on the album for me include the motown style party jam ‘Strobelite’ with Peven Everrett, the chilled out electronica of ‘Andromeda’ and Grace Jones’ commanding vocals over the driving synth rock of ‘Charger’.

De La Soul, who featured on Gorillaz biggest hit, the classic ‘Feel Good Inc’, return for the manic boom bap of ‘Moments’. This track is all over the place, De La Soul rap about sexual conquest, whilst 2D sings of race issues, but somehow it works, maybe because it’s all over the place.

When I first heard ‘Hallelujah Money’ I was worried. Sure, the sentiment was spot on, but it is just so very unGorillaz, but on this album it fits perfect, especially transitioning to ‘We Got the Power’.

My favourite song on the album though, would have to be “Saturnz Barz (Spirit House)” featuring Popcaan. It’s a wonderfully clean, catchy Gorillaz song inspired by reggae roots of the creators.

Humanz is a protest against the current state of American and world politics, but it does it without getting angry. ‘Aint nobody going to kill their vibe.

I don’t think it’s Gorillaz best album (I give ‘Demon Days’ that honor), but I’d say it’s their most mature. I’d put it around about on par with the raw energy of their 2001 self-titled debut, and above ‘Plastic Beach’.

Humanz tells the tail of our times. Informing the listener whilst remaining as detached as possible, it remains hopeful, but realistic. It keeps moving, so as not to get bogged down in the emotion of it all, all the while keeping the listener moving.

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