Gorillaz

The Now Now

Parlophone/Warner Bros.

Jul 16, 2018 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share


Find It At: AMAZON

Gorillaz's new album The Now Now is to last year's Humanz as the group's 2010 album The Fall is to its close proximity predecessor, Plastic Beach. That is, Humanz and Plastic Beach are glitzy guest star-filled collections of bewildering excess while their follow-ups are stripped back, more thoughtful compositions, written on tour, specifically in North America, with the occasional, carefully placed collaboration.

Guest stars are a given in this cartoon-represented group of Blur's Damon Albarn and artist Jamie Hewlett. But they're not the ones that bring attention to the genre-free appeal of Gorillaz. As such, it is always best when the focus is turned back inside, which in the case of Albarn, invariably means an enduring melancholy, along the lines of his solo album, Everyday Robots, with which The Now Now shares close DNA. Even more intimate, Albarn keeps his voice free of the characteristic effects it's known for on Gorillaz, allowing his own softly delivered tones to carry his missives of isolation.

Where collaborators appear on The Now Nowsuch as on legendary soul-jazz guitarist George Benson on the aptly funky yet mellow jam, "Humility," and Jamie Principle and Snoop Dogg trade the microphone with Albarn on the flirty, house-based beats and blurps of "Hollywood"it's a subtle and well-placed inclusion that melts into the song while nudgingly enhancing it.

With tracks like "Idaho," "Kansas," "Lake Zurich," "Magic City" (featuring Blur guitarist Graham Coxon), and the aforementioned "Hollywood," and many lyrics set in or devoted to the city of Los Angeles in particular, The Now Now gives off the impression of a tour diary. With the inclusion of nostalgic-sounding synths and electro-disco lite flutters, it is also reminiscent of Arctic Monkeys' Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino. This could be attributed to The Now Now co-producer, James Ford, longtime Arctic Monkeys' unofficial fifth member and producer of all but one of that group's albums, the other co-producer being Gorillaz band member, Remi Kabaka. But with soft basslines and spacey touch, The Now Now also has French duo Air's cosmic feel.

Even if The Now Now comes across as a solo effort from Albarn, it is still a far improvement on the bloated and playlist-y nature of Humanz which masked everything that is interesting about Gorillaz in its Jumbotron collaborators. Albarn is at his most interesting when he is in the spotlight. (www.gorillaz.com)

Author rating: 6.5/10

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