June 27, 2018 Gorillaz – The Now Now (Album Review)
It has been thirteen lucky years since “Feel Good Inc.” (even longer since “Clint Eastwood”) made them a household name, and they were being touted by the likes of Spin and its contemporaries as being the second coming of sonic Christ. Now, that kooky cartoon group Gorillaz are back with more good vibes on The Now Now, which arrives Friday, June 29, 2018, via Parlophone/Warner Bros.
Created in 1998 by Multi-Instrumentalist Damon Albarn of Blur fame, along with exceptionally-talented visual artist Jamie Hewlett, the Multi-Platinum, Grammy Award-winning Gorillaz are a “virtual band” who traffic in Electronica, Hip Hop, and Art Pop to create an intriguingly unique offering that borders closest to postmodern, good feels music but is entirely unique to Gorillaz.
Proving their proficiency and talents throughout the past two decades, the “band” – 2-D (lead vocals, keyboards), Murdoc Niccals (bass), Noodle (guitar, keyboards), and Russel Hobbs (drums/percussion) – have released five albums, ranging from 2001’s Gorillaz to 2017’s Humanz. Fandom has never been a problem for the group (or duo, whichever), who have won a Grammy Award, several MTV Video Music Awards, three MTV Europe Music Awards, and were nominated for the Mercury Prize, but actually withdrew their own nomination.
While there was a lengthy hiatus between the release of 2010’s The Fall and Humanz, Gorillaz are wasting no time in jumping into their sixth full-length studio offering, The Now Now. For the 11-song album, the duo continue to set their sights upon a soundscape with no apparent boundaries, blending ambiance and electronics with everything from Jazz and Funk to the voice of Snoop Dogg himself. Thematically, on the animation end of the schtick, Gorillaz introduce new Bassist Ace, who is temporarily filling in for Murdoc, who is currently in prison. But, thankfully, you don’t necessarily have to know your reality from your cartoons to enjoy The Now Now!
The Now Now begins with a funky, Jazz-tasticness on “Humility” – which appropriately features Jazz musician George Benson – and introduces this feel good collection with a chill rallying cry that maintains a steady, grooving beat and is perfect for bopping along to, whether solo or in a group setting. Next, they ask, “Do you dance?” You should, and prepare yourself to shake those hips to the ambient electronics of “Tranz,” which build into a hazy jingle of synths and blurry vocals; it’s all very ambiguous, much like its title.
They go for a fat low end with “Hollywood,” a freaky little sashay that envisions Hollyweird as a sultry mistress who is both a wonderful thing and a total vibe-killer. Here, Snoop Dogg and Jamie Principle both guest, the former laying it down with his delicious brand of signature Rap. To follow this up, we hop into a picnic basket with Toto. But don’t cry, we’re still in “Kansas,” which is almost guaranteed to be the opposite of its predecessor, right? Here, the funk crawls across your eardrums to author an atmospheric soundscape that is anchored by bass but fleshed out by glittery synths. So, why “Kansas”? Well, click those ruby red slippers, ‘cause this is a self-explorative journey home.
The groove cranks up to a seductive sway for “Sorcererz,” where all the elements come together to entrance and bespell listeners, while “Idaho” mashes peaceful, meandering ambient electronics into a dreamy haze that is stress-reducing and soporific, like a bubble bath or devouring a giant bowl of spuds. Funky steps prance right back across your ears to own the dancefloor on “Lake Zurich,” a vintage blend of Disco and electronics that feels like a Saturday night. Oh, and there are no words here, just the soundtrack for your next weekend hang.
Meanwhile, they combine the lackadaisical with super chill, stony vibes for “Magic City,” a glittering rainbow-colored stomp of good feels, then dip back into the deep, low end for “Fire Flies,” a creeping expanse of intensity that shifts and shudders, like chasing lights in a summer meadow. For its part, “One Percent” dials us into an interplanetary broadcast that floats through another realm entirely, one that almost feels like Synthpop territory (think Apoptygma Berzerk). Ultimately, they end with the glittering guitars of “Souk Eye,” a sambo-like sway that shines like the perfect wave good night.
Gorillaz have something and they are schticking to it! That said, The Now Now is a delicious blend of all of the myriad particles and quirks that have given this band (or duo) their staying power throughout these past two decades, exploratory sonics that refuse to kowtow to genre-defying boundaries. So, what does it sound like? Well, that’s for each listener to decide, but the overall vibe is heavy in good feels, with a few moments of deeper contemplation; a journey that is as much self-discovery as it is whimsical aural delight. In fact, The Now Now is such a stony good time that you are going to need a snack afterward. Don’t say you weren’t warned! For these reasons, CrypticRock give Gorillaz’ The Now Now 4 of 5 stars and a taco…or twelve.