Kenneth Edison, Managing Editor
Follow him on twitter: @krazo1
The story of the cartoon quartet Gorillaz continues as they return with their first album in seven years, Humanz, though this is a chapter of the story that is best left forgotten.
Gorillaz have earned themselves a reputation of being one of the most consistently great bands of this generation, dropping four solid studio albums since their inception by lead musician Damon Albarn and cartoonist Jamie Hewlett back in 1998.
The band has flaunted its firm grasp on a variety of genres with their second studio album Demon Days in 2005 going five times platinum in the UK and double platinum in the U.S. Since that peak, Gorillaz have released quality follow-up projects Plastic Beach and The Fall.
Humanz, on the other hand, is a puzzling project. It is an album abound with experimentation, yet even under the leadership of a musician as talented as Albarn, nearly every risk the band takes ends up sounding like a failure.
One of the most confusing trends throughout the album is how infrequently Albarn’s vocals appear, a strange choice considering some of the band’s most timeless hits like “Feel Good Inc.” and “Clint Eastwood” are tracks in which Albarn’s vocals are by far the most iconic parts.
On this project, Albarn’s vocals give way to a multitude of guest features whose contributions range from negligible to downright insufferable.
The track “Submission” demonstrates this perfectly, as it begins with a spacey beat accompanied by a graceful vocal performance by Kelela. However, it is then followed by a comically misplaced verse by Danny Brown which sours the song beyond repair.
It is clear the band is having fun with their sound on tracks like “Momentz” and indeed they get close to composing a compelling and exciting track, but alas the song is dominated by an overbearing drumbeat that beats the life out of what would have been a great song.
Perhaps a little bit more experimentation could have been used on the track “We Got the Power,” which features neither compelling instrumentation or lyrics, instead offering a cringe-worthy hook over the most bland keyboard beat imaginable.
The album is not without its flashes of brilliance such as the thoughtful and politically charged lyrics of Pusha T in the track “Let Me Out” or the hypnotic instrumentation on the track “Charger”.
However, brilliant as they may be, these brief moments come buried under a plethora of musical missteps that will turn off all but the most devoted of Gorillaz fans.