Gorillaz Humanz: A fan’s review

I’m a designer – not a music critic but I am a big fan of Gorillaz, Jamie Hewlett, his artwork and the creativity in their projects, so what the hell…

A new Gorillaz album – fantastic! Purchased, got the ticket and they are coming to Brighton in November. Winning!

Now to delve into the album and lap up all its awesomeness. Hmmm… It’s fantastic to be able to immerse yourself into Damon Albarn and Jamie Hewlett’s creative world again and you really have to do that to appreciate this instalment. You have to live it, get your head into their new world in order appreciate the ideas and creativity behind it. If you think you can listen to this once or twice and then give your verdict – you’re going to be disappointed. Its definitely more of a slow burner than their other albums.

Fans love Gorillaz albums in different ways and thats very much what they are – complete albums with certain tracks within, which stand out like signal flares. This album has less obvious gems, a weaker narrative, it doesn’t flow, lacks clear identity in places and there are certain Gorillaz sounds that will be sorely missed by their existing fans. It is certainly less accessible for the younger generation – previously we’ve had a Zombie Apocalypse, Demons within the world, powerful messages about consumerism and the planet but it was easy to process. Songs like ‘Kids with Guns’ smack you in the face – there is a clarity with lyrics, vocals and harmonies that is missing with Humanz.

This is very much a darker album, there is no humour – it’s a thinker. It’s almost as if the hangover of the experimental ‘The Fall’ hasn’t quite worn off yet and has effected some of the tracks in Humanz. ‘The Fall’ aside (this was just a side project really) each album has developed in terms of sound, depth and they’ve got better and better. This is another development, its just not a development as good as Plastic Beach or Demon Days. This album had potential to be better than the last but it lacks that ‘fun element that other Gorillaz albums had. Also the interludes don’t really add anything – they don’t add to the narrative or explain anything.

There are some powerful observations within, there is that deep, rich Gorillaz sound that just fills you up inside, great layering and the talent on the album is there to enjoy. The sounds and mood of the album are awesome and there are some absolute corkers within the album and each time you listen to the album you pick up on these more and more and quickly fall in love with them. THE MAIN ISSUE is this… there are about 5 tracks in the middle of the album, which don’t need to be there. 11-16 Cut them out – its tempting to remove them and listen to the album without them. Then the tracks that are left would merge together better, the album would boast clearer narrative and identity and be a lot easier to absorb. The tracks that work best are the ones with clear Albarn vocals in the forefront.

With this album – be patient. Because despite my slight disappointment in certain areas – this is a great album.  It’s just it has a ridiculously high bar to begin with. Plastic Beach and Demon Days are in my top 12 albums (full list below). Like many albums – the more you listen the more you love it. It’s just with previous Gorillaz albums you’ve been spoilt and never really needed that time to develop a love for it

In order to really get Humanz you also have to watch some interviews with Damon Albarn, try and hear what the album is saying and watch the videos.

Saturnz Barz passed me by first time, second I liked it, third time with the video and I loved it. Bare with it and absorb Jamie Hewlett’s artwork and music videos and the tracks take on a completely different meaning. They really come alive, the mood and lyrics start to make more sense and the result is seriously cool and impressive. This is what attracted people to Gorillaz in the first place – the combination of original artwork and music with incredible depth of sound and on that level this album delivers in bucket fulls. Maybe a few less tracks and a full length Gorillaz movie to accompany album is what’s needed. Maybe then this would of had a chance of being properly comprehended and may have had a shot at being an iconic album.

But what do I know… make your own mind up.

A week or so on, this is how I would edit the album. I enjoy it twice as much listening to it like this…

Sometimes less is more – its the same in design and art. Know when to stop or make cuts.

  1. Pink Floyd – Dark Side of the moon
  2. Gorillaz – Plastic Beach
  3. Moby – Play
  4. Bob Marley – Legend
  5. The Fugees – The Score
  6. RHCP – Californication
  7. Royksopp – Melody AM
  8. Gorillaz – Demon Days
  9. Finger Eleven – Finger Eleven
  10. Incubus – Make Yourself
  11. Brand New – The Devil and God are raging inside me
  12. Guillemots – Through the windowpayne
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