>> Gorillaz have long been a split band. Comparing “The Now Now” to 2017’s “Humanz”, the duality couldn’t be more apparent.
“The Now Now” is a return to basics. “Humanz” was enormous, packed full of featured artists and wildly varying influences, but “The Now Now” strips that all away. Only one track, “Hollywood”, has vocal features. Everything else is all Albarn, and it’s a step in the right direction. There’s no bloat, no filler, just the Gorillaz we came to hear.
Of course, to say that “The Now Now” is stripped-down doesn’t mean it’s boring. Instead, Damon Albarn’s focused on making everything matter. Each song has fewer elements, but each part really adds something to the mix. Layers aren’t added just to sound cool, everything is built around adding depth and feeling to the music.
Gorillaz have such a story, through each phase of their band, yet there isn’t much of it in these lyrics. Instead, “The Now Now” could almost be released as a Damon Albarn solo project. There’s almost a mid-life crisis sound to much of the album, Albarn musing on life against the insurmountable void and saying, “Well, might as well continue I guess”. It’s despondent, and sounds more like a 50-year old man coming to a crossroads than the band of animated rogues we’ve come to expect (plus Ace).
“Humanz” and “The Now Now” are the exact inverse of “The Fall” and “Plastic Beach”. Eight years ago, Gorillaz released a stripped-down album as a precursor to a larger, fuller-sounding release. This time, though, everything’s reversed: big and bold precedes small and personal. Are Gorillaz planning to keep this up, a train drifting two tracks until it can’t be sustained any more? Or is Damon Albarn planning to pick a sound and stick with it? With a release schedule as sporadic as Gorillaz, it may be a long while until we know for sure. 4.2/5 <<