Colin Gannon reviews the hugely anticipated new album from the Gorillaz - a project which, he says, buckles under pressure.
Featuring a myriad of generation-defining artists, Humanz is a lackluster collection of tracks with a handful of highlights but as a whole, the premonitory project falls short.
It’s said that Damon Albarn told all collaborators, pre-election, to imagine a world where Donald Trump is president in an attempt to purposefully create a vision of a hopeless dystopia in which he can compose a soundtrack to.
What results is almost a party-playlist created to accompany political discontent - a 26-song long attempt to capture the inherent madness of political discourse and the human condition. The ideals and grand concept are admirable but it is the sounds that fail to mesh together and collaborators who are misused that contribute to a largely disappointing Gorillaz album.
Awkward-sounding tracks with similar, uneasy synthesised drums emerge such as 'Momentz' and 'Sex, Murder, Party'. A common thread throughout is the fact that many talented featuring artists are either over-utilised (Jehnny Beth on 'We Got The Power') or under-utilised (D.R.A.M. on 'Andromeda') or even in some cases, out of place entirely (Danny Brown on 'Submisson').
The album peaks when Albarn is at his most honest. Namely the beautiful, futuristic ballad 'Black and Blue' which could well be a Blur song, as well as the apocalyptic 'Ascension', which is usurped by an aggressive Vince Staples feature, “The sky's falling, baby, Drop that ass 'fore it crash”.
'Andromeda' is Humanz’s jewel-piece; a funky bassline-driven ode to a now-closed English nightclub of the same name. Its sweet, delicate electronic synths combine with emotive Albarn vocals and weave seamlessly, unlike some of the more cluttered tracks like 'Sex, Murder, Party'.
Over-saturated synths, misplaced guests, uneasy kick-drums and an overarching lack of focus contribute to what is merely talented vocalists atop Albarn productions. This is not what we've come to expect from a Gorillaz album - a normally weird and wonderful alternate cartoon universe, allowing guests to unfurl their story from within - instead they peer in from the outside. If Humanz is a reflection of the oft-intrinsic chaos of our minds and consequently our realities, then it somewhat succeeds - a caricature of our fallibility. “When the morning comes / We are still human”.