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Gorillaz - The Now Now (Album Review)

Tuesday, 10 July 2018 Written by Jacob Brookman

To music lovers of a certain age Gorillaz remain an afterthought: a secondary project after Damon Albarn’s best work with Blur.

One reason for this is Blur’s relevance within the cultural movement of Britpop. Their music is particularly effective at creating a sense of space (Britain) and time (the 1990s). But another reason is that Gorillaz are both more bland (read out and out pop) and more varied (reliant on collaborations) at the same time. This is also one of the key problems with ‘The Now Now’.

The album is conceived as a 2-D (Albarn’s character) solo project and duly it’s thin on collaborations and thematically isolated.

We open with Humility, on which the gentile guitar stylings of George Benson add to a breezy jam of sunny textures. The sound and lyrics are all Albarn; political, personal and playful, but as a lead single it’s a little lightweight.

Chunkier tones appear on the instrumental Lake Zurich and on Sorcererz, which demonstrates the group’s median sonic foundation; digital pop with either African-American or world music elements. The song opens boldly but doesn’t quite connect, possibly because it operates as a kind of synth soul jam, with the lyrics essentially a chanted accompaniment to the groove. “Everybody hold on, everybody cool down, everybody see yourself, ” and so on.

The issue is that the backbone of the track is not really strong enough to inspire the hypnotic trance effect that might be attained if it was arranged with real instruments. It strikes at the heart of Gorillaz’s patchy output, namely the tendency to serve up occasional pop dynamite padded out with intelligent, likeable mediocrity.

Albarn is in a pretty select group within music. A pop idol who has seen the bulk of his commercial success arrive after the age of 30, he is a national treasure who retains a seemingly red-eyed desire to keep innovating, performing and connecting.

But Gorillaz’s best work is generally borne out of the originality of their collaborations, and as such, ‘The Now Now’ is one of the weaker records in their catalogue. It still has some wonderful moments and there is nothing lazy here, but it actually recalls (arguably) Blur’s weakest record, ‘Think Tank’ - an album made with a quarter of the band missing.





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