If there’s one big surprise in pop music, it’s that Gorillaz would still be around in 2017. If there’s another surprise, it’s that the cartoon band that sang Clint Eastwood would become a potent cultural force. The self-titled album was little more than a novelty, then Demon Days became a huge cult hit (vinyl copies are selling for around $300. I’m glad I got mine new). Plastic Beach was a huge pop juggernaut that featured friggin’ Snoop Dogg. Plastic Beach was such a huge hit that the virtual band was replaced with a human band for an actual live tour (previous live shows had featured projections of the animated members or holograms)…
And so, enter Humanz
. Released seven years after Plastic Beach into a terrifying global political climate, Gorillaz still got it. While Blur’s Damon Albarn is still pulling all the strings, this is the most collaborator-heavy disc they’ve put out. 2-D (the animated singer with dead eyes, remember) most often sits in the background while conspirators like Vince and Mavis Staples, Popcaan, DRAM, Danny Brown, De La Soul again, Pusha T, and friggin’ Grace Jones take the reigns. It’s a party for the end of the world (Albarn’s words, not mine), and everyone is invited.
The album is a masterful juxtaposition of jubilant dance pop and political emotiveness. Thematically, the lyrics tackle corruption, racism in America, greed, and a whole lot of hopelessness. And all of this set to Prince-copping pop (Strobelite), happy-go-lucky synthpop (Andromeda), dark electronica (Sex Murder Party), and a lot of great rap verses.
Everyone knows that Gorillaz isn’t a full time project for anyone involved, but if they keep going for broke like this, it’ll be a long time before anyone stops caring about this fake band.