After a seven year hiatus – in which mastermind Damon Albarn released his debut solo record, Everyday Robots, as well as Blur’s eighth studio album, The Magic Whip – Gorillaz are back.
Off the radar since 2010’s The Fall, Albarn and longtime artistic collaborator Jamie Hewlett mark the return of everyone’s favourite primates with a suitably politically-charged bang.
In true guerilla style, Albarn has recruited a plethora of artists to lend their voice to his cause; including De La Soul, Danny Brown and Benjamin Clementine. Also making an unlikely appearance is Noel Gallagher, who at the pinnacle of the Britpop war between Oasis and Blur infamously wished that Albarn would “catch AIDS and die”.
Not content with merely uniting two of the industry’s most famed enemies, Humanz makes for a very relevant and empowering listen as tensions around the world continue to intensify – here’s what we made of it.
Opening with the cryptic introduction “I switched my robot off – and I know more, but retain less”, the listener is thrown straight into the action with the relentless energy provided by Vince Staples on Ascension, before the synthy 80s sound of Strobelite and the spaced-out reggae of Saturnz Barz.
Momentz features a glitch-hop masterpiece by De La Soul, prior to The Non-conformist Oath interlude leading seamlessly into Kelela and Danny Brown gracing the more pop-orientated Submission. Next comes the eclectic electronic symphony of Charger, before an interlude of “elevator going up” gives to rise to the smooth beat of Andromeda featuring D.R.A.M..
Busted and Blue marks the sole Albarn-only track that appears on Humanz – and a wonderfully ambient number at that. The Talk Radio interlude follows, before the fantastically soulful voices of Anthony Hamilton and Mavis Staples grace Carnival and Let Me Out respectively – with the masterful lyricism of Pusha T accompanying the latter.
The Penthouse interlude bridges the gap to the eccentric Sex Murder Party, prior to the pulsating drum machinated sound of She’s My Collar. The final interlude, The Elephant, precedes the first song released from the album back in January, Hallelujah Money – a swipe at the then newly-elected President Trump, featuring the sultry tones of Benjamin Clementine.
Bringing the record to a close comes the inherently positive and upbeat We Got The Power, which only officially lists Jehnny Beth as a featured artist – despite the aforementioned symbolism of Oasis frontman Gallagher lending his voice to the hook. But hell, with Albarn showing he can blur the once violently strict lines between these two giants of the industry, why can’t he use music as a force to bring us Humanz together?
Humanz is out tomorrow (Friday 28 April) via Parlophone Music. To pre-order the album follow this link.
Words by Jonno Mack