Yesterday, Gorillaz returned from their seven-year slumber with a bombardment of new tracks from their upcoming album, Humanz, sharing four of them over the course of an hour.
We spent time with the Popcaan-assisted “Saturnz Barz” and its accompanying “Spirit House” video, and now comes the time to explore the other three tracks, which were all shared on YouTube with very low-key videos.
“Ascension” is the album’s bombastic opening track, fueled by a typically sharp performance from Long Beach spitter Vince Staples. Over a helter skelter electronic beat from Damon Albarn & Co. (which isn’t that dissimilar to the one on Staples’ last solo track, “Bagbak”), he treats an impending armageddon like an opportunistic Chicken Little, rapping, “The sky’s falling baby, drop that ass ‘fore it crash.”
After riding in the backseat and letting guest vocalists drive on the last two tracks, Albarn’s decidedly in the forefront of “Andromeda.” Boisterous Virginian D.R.A.M. also pops up on this punchy, four-on-the-floor track, but his role is more auxiliary, his bright, uninhibited voice providing some technicolor contrast when harmonizing with Albarn’s hollowed-out deadpan. “Andromeda” is a song driven by themes of romance, but there’s also palpable melancholy, as if this is Albarn’s final chance to tell someone how he feels.
Albarn loves including choirs on Gorillaz album closers-- it was the London Community Gospel Choir on Demon Days and a multitracked army of himself on Plastic Beach-- and Humanz outro “We Got The Power” continues that trend. Goth-punk powerhouse Jehnny Beth acts as the chorus’ fiery leader as they all sing, “We’ve got the power to be loving each other no matter what happens.” Regardless of what dark depths the rest of Humanz plumbs, we now know that it’ll end on an optimistic note.
Speaking with BBC before premiering “Saturnz Barz” yesterday, Albarn said that the album was inspired by a “dark fantasy” he had last year. "I suppose we were imagining the idea of Donald Trump,” he continued, “Unfortunately it became reality.”
In the past, his fictitious cartoon pop band has been a canvas for his thoughts on rapid modernization and environmental protection, and now it looks like he’ll (wisely) be using Humanz as a lens through which to view the far-right resurgence that’s happening all over the Western world.
Knowing Gorillaz and their wacky, inventive ways, we’ll soon be getting a current events hot take unlike anyone else’s.