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[Album Review] Gorillaz – The Now Now

Who’s ready for a road trip? The new Gorillaz album The Now Now is the perfect soundtrack for travel. One can tell from titles such as “Magic City”, “Lake Zurich”, and “Hollywood” that there is a dedicated focus on adventure for this established British band. Many lyrics speak about being in dazzling or beautiful places, seeing interesting things and experiencing a journey, while emphasizing the feeling of discovery. Listening to this album, you’ll get the feeling that most of the songs must have been written while on the road with lyrics in “Idaho” have deep imagery of beautiful scenery pass by via tour bus window. The strongest positive of the album is that makes for a great summer exploration soundtrack for the car (or whatever transportation you use) and has the perfect flow for any summer excursion.

A huge change from their last album, The Now Now shows a softer, slower side of the band, without any of the hard-hitting rap or driving beats, previously found on Humanz. This isn’t a new direction as it is very similar to a large swath of their early art.  Spacey sounds transport you away from this reality and into one of Gorillaz own making. They have always had the goal of being different than anyone else. This album is true to form when looking at the whole history, but falls a little flat as the grooving flow throughout overshadows the individuality that each track deserved.

Another key difference is the significant decrease in guest stars, citing only Snoop DoggGeorge Benson, and Jamie Principle in the entirety.  This lack of outside influence decreases the diversity of sound and intense individuality that was found in the band’s previous music. Gorillaz have always pushed collaboration strongly in any of their music, making it part of their foundation. There is only one permanent member, Damon Albarn, with the rest of the band consisting of a continual rotation of different artists. Having so few included collaborators may have been what made it so much slower going, but that doesn’t have to be a bad thing, if you’re prepared for it. The Now Now is nothing like Humanz, but it’s good when you want to relax and enjoy the ride.

From beginning to end the groove continues with interesting sounds from a variety of sources, both digital and physical. (Yes, there is even a cowbell on “Lake Zurich.”) The feel is of a whirlwind tour across the country with a laid back attitude. Some parts get a little too slow and light, but this feeling is fleeting as they make at least something interesting in each song and finish strong. There are definitely a few great tracks on this album that deserve a listen.

“Fire Flies” stands out for it’s intriguing lyrics and complex instrumentation, including strings and a tuba bass line. Definitely the gem of the entire album with a truly unique sound that’s so completely Gorillaz. I find myself forgetting what I’m doing when this song comes on. It pulls me in and envelops my senses. No wonder they made it the pre-album release single just two weeks before the drop date, June 29th. This surreal feel really does draw you in and transport you away. It’s like poetry in motion. One of my favorite songs they’ve ever released.

“Souk Eye” is the final song with Spanish guitar, horns, and a full accompaniment of instruments. The forlorn sounds of the vocals blend perfectly, adding some of the complexity lacking in other parts of the album. This is another song that really pulls me into a tragic love. It’s romantic and fun to listen to with the melancholy overtones Gorillaz is known for with a bright twist. The contradictory feeling of this song works wonders as the final song fades out with only keys.

Depending on why you’re a fan of Gorillaz, the enjoyment level from this album may be drastically influenced. Lacking in depth and muted in tone more so than many previous releases, this could feel hollow in comparison to Humanz. It lacks the typical complexity, making it feel like a let down to those expecting a more individuality and collaborators. Despite this, the fact remains that some great work is included on this record. The Now Now shines as driving music because these smooth jams are perfect for being on the road. It deserves an honest, open minded listen when you’re the mood for it’s slower tempo. Its sounds envelop the senses like rose colored glasses, changing perceptions. The more I listen, the more pleased I am with how it feels.

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