Gorillaz - Humanz: What You Need To Know
For a long time it looked as though the fourth Gorillaz album, 2010’s The Fall, might be their last, but seven years on the cartoon creations are back with their fifth. Humanz arrives in stores today (you can preview and purchase it on the right-hand side of this page), here’s everything you need to know…
A little background...
Shortly after the release of The Fall, rumour s began to circulate that all was not well in the Gorillaz camp, and despite several denials of a rift between the group’s co-creators, ex-Blur frontman Damon Albarn and Tank Girl creator Jamie Hewlett, Albarn eventually admitted that he didn’t know if there would be another Gorillaz album, stating that Hewlett had express dissatisfaction with the fact that his animations were becoming less central to the project and the group’s live shows. However, the pair have since ironed out their differences and Humanz may well have arrived sooner were it not for Albarn’s notoriously hectic schedule – in the time since he began writing for the album he’s knocked out an eighth album with Blur and his first solo record, Everyday Robots. Finally, in January this year, Gorillaz released the first new music from the album, ‘Hallelujah Money’, and an announcement on the album’s release date and title, Humanz, soon followed.
Who's producing it?
Although Albarn usually handles at least some of the production work himself, one of the notable things about Gorillaz’ output over the years has been the interesting choices of co-producer, with the likes of Dan The Automator and Brian ‘Danger Mouse’ Burton both having worked on previous records. This time around Albarn is working with Chicago-based DJ / producer Anthony Khan, better known as The Twilite Tone, and Remi Kabaka.
Kabaka is the voice of fictional Gorillaz drummer Russel Hobbs, but he’s also been working as a producer for DRC Music Collective, the Albarn-led project featuring dozens of Congolese musicians which produced Kinhasa One Two. Hailing from Nigeria, he’s also a mean percussionist and drummer who has toured with the likes of The Rolling Stones and Bobby Womack, as well as appearing on Paul McCartney’s Band on the Run.
Any special guests?
It wouldn’t be a Gorillaz album without a laundry list of guests and Humanz features one hell of a roll call. On the standard version of the album, which boasts 20 tracks, Vince Staples, Grace Jones, Popcaan, De La Soul, Danny Brown, Kelela, Mavis Staples and Pusha T all appear as guest vocalists, as do D.R.A.M., Anthony Hamilton, Zebra Katz, Jamie Principle, Kali Uchis, Benjamin Clementine and Savages’ Jehnny Beth.
On the deluxe edition, which features an additional six tracks, there are also appearances for Carly Simon, Ray BLK, Rag ‘n’ Bone Man and Kilo Kish. Meanwhile, the list of songwriting credits on the album includes Jean-Michel Jarre, Albarn’s former Blur bandmate Graham Coxon and, perhaps most surprisingly of all, Albarn’s erstwhile Britpop nemesis Noel Gallagher.
What does it sound like?
Humanz has been billed as ‘the soundtrack to a party for the end of the world’ and as odd as that might sound, it’s easy to see what it means. Thankfully, musically speaking, the emphasis is on the ‘party’ aspect rather than the ‘end of the world’ bit and Humanz is the usual kitchen sink mish-mash of genres that takes in everything from reggae and world music to hip-hop, dance music and pop.
Sure, the lyrics address the state of the world as it is today and various collaborators on the album have mentioned that Damon Albarn ‘predicted’ the election of Donald Trump as much as a year ago, but while the album does cover some political and even apocalyptic themes in its lyrics, the tone is more often one of hope and this is an uptempo, uplifting album that feels a million miles from Albarn’s last release, the melancholic solo offering Everyday Robots.
That’s not to say it’s all sunshine and light; ‘Saturnz Bars’ is one of several tracks with a darker edge, but for the most part tracks like ‘Andromeda’ and ‘Ascension’ keep up the apocalyptic party vibe that permeates the whole record.
The album’s final high note is ‘We Got The Power’, a euphoric album closer featuring Jehnny Beth and co-written with the aforementioned Noel Gallagher that feels like a testament to building bridges in more ways than one.
Does it deliver?
It really does. Albarn always sounds like he’s having the most fun when he’s working on a Gorillaz album and, despite the apocalyptic overtones, that really shines through here. If the preview show a few weeks ago was anything to go by, upcoming live shows look set to be a blast too.
Check out he interactive video for 'Saturnz Barz' below...