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Seven long, painstaking years have passed since the famous virtual band, Gorillaz, released an album. Fans sat idly by, waiting for mastermind Damon Albarn to feed us some cross-genre hits. We’ve also waited for illustrator Jamie Hewlett to revamp the mischievous animated band members — 2D, Noodle, Russel and Murdoc.
America’s recent shift in politics prompted Albarn to awaken. On Inauguration Day, they released the mock-gospel track “Hallelujah Money,” their first politically charged piece. That alone showed us the album would have some political messages; I guess it took a chauvinistic orange rising to power to jump-start the band’s 26-track resurrection.
Humanz asserts America’s impending dissolution through an outrageous amount of features, or animated band members. The widespread hate regarding the quantity of them is unfounded; the album is called Humanz for a reason. The utilization of far-reaching and unique voices has always been central to Gorillaz’s theme of mixed melodies and collaboration.
Instead of trying to gain more attention by using mainstream artists for the features, Humanz has a variety of carefully picked underdogs. The likes of Vince Staples, Kali Uchis, Danny Brown, Kilo Kish and D.R.A.M. work to enhance each track’s intent. In a few, like “Ticker Tape” and “The Apprentice,” multiple artists gracefully counteract each others’ voices. Albarn is the voice behind the band’s animated lead, 2D, and his signature vocals are woven throughout the album.
Gorillaz’s sound unmistakably jumps around between amorphous synths, rock grooves and psych ballads. There’s notably catchy tracks like “Strobelite,” “Andromeda,” “The Apprentice,” “Out of Body” and “Busted and Blue.” Best of all, Humanz balances Gorillaz’ trademark downbeat atmosphere with updated takes on their electronic soundscapes.
Because of their diversity and range, which they’ve always had, some tend to be put off by a number of their songs. This will likely apply to tracks like “Carnival” and “Sex Murder Party,” since they don’t have the idiosyncratic production or enticing vocals to be noteworthy. But with a bulky 26-track list, it’s almost inevitable that a few aren’t going to resonant well.
Overall, Humanz was what was expected from Gorillaz, in the sense that the songs on it are not ready-made radio hits or they’re not all sounds fans collectively agree on. Avoid comparing the album only to the bands most popular singles like “Feel Good, Inc.” or “Clint Eastwood.” Humanz contains a lot of refreshing and thought-provoking tracks you can tap your foot along to while you await their upcoming music videos.
Humanz gets a 7 out of 10.
Contact CUI Staff writer Kristin Endahl at Kristin.Endahl@colorado.edu.