Astrid Stawiarz / Stringer / Getty
Gorillaz are back…but can we say we’re excited to see them?
The band announced over the weekend that they will drop their fifth studio album The Now Now on June 29. Frontman Damon Albarn had teased the upcoming album at a music festival in Chile in March, backing up co-founder Jamie Hewlett’s previous hints.
A seven-year hiatus separated the release of 2010’s Plastic Beach and Humanz, which dropped last year and was met with trepidation.
I’ll admit that I was beyond excited for Humanz. I had been massively disappointed by Plastic Beach, so after waiting seven years for them to redeem themselves I was curious about the direction they’d take it. I mean, they spent seven years making this album, it had to be good! Turns out, the album was a huge letdown.
Sure, they brought back all the key ingredients: the dystopian vibe, the never-ending features, the wonky synths seemingly composed on a Sega Dreamcast. But together, it had devolved into a chaotic mess of nothingness.
Gorillaz was once deft at mixing elements that had no business being on the same track together. No one could have guessed that a cartoon band fronted by the lead singer of Blur (and produced by beatmaker Dan the Automator, who was little known outside of the underground hip-hop world) would rattle off several crossover hits. But that was the magic of Gorillaz.
Production on their sophomore album Demon Days surprisingly improved upon an already successful formula when Dan the Automator was replaced by Danger Mouse. The latter was fresh off his controversial record The Grey Album, which mashed up Jay-Z lyrics from The Black Album over instrumentals from The Beatles’ White Album. Demon Dayz became Gorillaz’ most successful record to date. While they haven’t strayed too far from that original recipe, the music just hasn’t been as good since.
Despite a seriously impressive lineup of featured artists on Humanz, including Vince Staples, Grace Jones, Kali Uchis, Danny Brown, Zebra Katz, and Mavis Staples, the album lacked a hit, or even a song worth playing more than once. Hopefully, the relatively short period between projects has reinvigorated Albarn and Hewlett.
Hewlett tells CoS that he’s “…inventing a new style for the next Gorillaz album,” offering a glimmer of hope that The Now Now will at least be more interesting than the last effort. Otherwise, the band that should be providing the soundtrack for a dystopian present could cease to be relevant in the not-too-distant future.