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Gorillaz make triumphant return with its new album

The virtual band makes its first new album since 2011

gorillaz

Album: Humanz

Artist: Gorillaz

Label: Parlophone and Warner Bros. Records

Release: April 28

Grade: B+

If the Gorillaz’ fifth studio album Humanz is the virtual band’s last, band creators Damon Albarn and Jamie Hewlett can hang their hats high. Even with a long five-year break between now and their last release “Do Ya Thing” in 2012, Albarn (the musical performer of the Gorillaz) has returned in top form.

Hewlett has brought his art to the band again, but this time the results are sensational. Hewlett has given each character in the band a new art direction while making the cover a modern day homage to their previous album Demon Days.

With the album’s concept coming from an end of the world party idea, the Gorillaz create a 21-song playlist that gives electricity and energy to the listener with its EDM based songs like “Andromeda,” while also keeping an overall sense of turmoil and selfishness highlighted by the slow-moving tracks like “Hallelujah Money.”

That balancing between themes makes Humanz one of the band’s strongest albums. While no stranger to a wide scope of music genres, Humanz feels like the band's most cohesive album with not a single song feeling like an outlier to the rest.

It also includes a variety of features from prominent rappers such as Pusha T and Vince Staples, and with more vocal features from Anthony Hopkins and Benjamin Clementine. The features are just as varied as the sound on the album, giving it a very broad but almost exclusive sound.

A highlight of the album, “Momentz” featuring longtime Gorillaz collaborators De La Soul, embodies that broad yet exclusive sound that fills the album. Over a thumping dance beat, De La Soul uses their quick flow along with changing background vocals and synth beats to create a frantic yet dance-friendly song. The song ends with a slowed-down outro that includes small bits of segmented yet political lyrics like, “I’m talkin’ about the Kool Klown Klan.”

Humanz is not an overtly political album, but much of the themes are based around the election of United States President Donald Trump.

“Let Me Out,” one of the band's singles for the album, includes phenomenal verses from rapper Pusha T and vocals from Mavis Staples. Pusha T brings a fierce edge to his lyrics here, sounding like a call to arms for change. He even brings an almost human element to the message by using the first person in lyrics like, “You say that I’m dangerous, I speak for the nameless, I fly with the vultures, I hang with the Bangers.”

Much of the more politically charged lyrics come from the fast-paced rap songs on the album, but all that changes once the album reaches its end.

In one of the album's closing songs, “Hallelujah Money” featuring Benjamin Clementine, lyrics like “And I thought the best way to perfect our tree, is by building walls,” and “And whole beasts of nations desire, power, when the morning comes, we are still human, how do we know?” help bring much of the underlying moral and political themes of the album to light.

Despite a bleak description of the future, “We Got The Power” acts as an optimistic counter reality song. It has such an infectious beat and chorus that it becomes almost impossible to forget it.

It makes for such a great triumphant ending note, that the song that follows it “Interlude: New World,” the final song on the album, feels almost unnecessary. Even with a solid EDM beat to it, and being less than two minutes long, the song feels a whimper to end the release after such a triumphant high of “We Got the Power”.

“Interlude: New World” highlights the album's biggest faults, which are the five “Interlude” tracks on the album. These short songs usually involve little in the way of music and act as transition pieces into the next song. While they fulfil their role well, they feel wholly unnecessary and make up a quarter of the album's tracks.

Despite this small gripe, the album remains one of the band's best albums while also showing that both Albarn and Hewlett have plenty left to give to the band.

Thomas Zafonte is the assistant sports editor and can be reached at thomas.zafontane@ubspectrum.com


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