Gorillaz
Humanz


3.8
excellent

Review

by Rowan5215 STAFF
April 29th, 2017 | 1044 replies


Release Date: 2017 | Tracklist

Review Summary: "It'll be alright in the end. And if it's not alright, it's not the end." - 2D. "Shut up 2D." - Murdoc.

It's an end-of-the-world party, and we're all invited, but someone forgot the instruments and the band is playing off an iPad. After six years gone, it's deeply frustrating that Humanz can't shake the vibe of being underdeveloped, a series of beats from the iPad that gave us The Fall with famous artists thrown on in random configuration. To be fair, this is probably how all Gorillaz songs start out, but very few of these songs have evolved into something instrumentally satisfying on any level. Perhaps in compensation, they're jam-packed with celebrity names even by Gorillaz standards, to the point where an uninterrupted verse from 2D is like a splash of cold water to the face. It's not like the collaborators are slacking; Albarn told them to imagine Trump winning the election months before it happened, granting an eerie prescient quality clearest in "Let Me Out" and "Hallelujah Money" that injects pure adrenaline to most guest verses. Admittedly, the censoring of 'Trump' and 'Obama' takes the teeth off the political statements a bit, but the tonal whiplash between Pusha's grim reality check – tell me that I won't die at the hands of the police, promise me I won't outlive my nephew and my niece – with De La Soul's stupidly hilarious squirt game line is classic Gorillaz.

Any concept album should be judged on how well it handles three things – the intro, the inevitable plethora of interludes, and the closer. Only one of those even hits the mark here, with Vince Staples effortlessly pinning his bars to the end-of-the-world party theme on "Ascension". Any trace of 'so random!! lol' humour in the interludes is long gone after one listen, but they prove more entertaining than the abysmal "We Got the Power". Not content with just being bad in every way - which stings more because there was a rockin' alternate cut which featured only Damon, Noel Gallagher and Graham Coxon, which on paper is the greatest thing ever – it also manages to completely undermine what came before. "She's My Collar" has just course corrected after a dodgy run of songs, and "Hallelujah Money" has deftly and incisively put a full stop on the semi-political story, when "Power" sinks the whole ship with some schlocky 80s synth worship and a primary school level 'love each other and literally every problem will go away' mentality.

More than ever, Humanz feels like a result of Albarn just ringing up everyone on his contact list, sending beats across time zones clandestinely in the dead of night. There's an admirable on-the-flyness to it, but we're left with some seriously shaky features; like the everything-and-the-kitchen-sink mentality, but everyone-and-the-Yellow-Pages. "Charger"'s scratchy guitar fuzz suggests it could have been the modern day "White Light" as a 2D solo, but the feature was introduced by Albarn sorting through so much Grace Jones improvisation that he started arranging bits of paper with her words on them on the floor of his studio, a no doubt gruelling process which pretty much just resulted in him looping the bit where she says "I'm gonna take you for a ride" a few times. "Sex Murder Party" should be a standout – just look at that title – but the introduction of something was gonna happen tonight is ironic given that absolutely nothing happens in any way, like Zebra Katz and Jamie Principle both got the memo they'd be filling in time between bigger verses that don't actually exist. On the other hand, there are some moments of real genius in the bits between interludes where real music happens. Danny Brown is a clear choice for collaborator because he's already basically a cartoon come to life, but he's almost outshined by Kelela contributing a top tier chorus on the euphoric "Submission", while Kali Uchis' sweet, flirty duet with 2D on "She's My Collar" turns an absurdly catchy pop jam into a late-album highlight. The cartoon singer passes on "Strobelite", "Submission" and "Carnival" entirely, leaving the three danciest tracks feeling like cuts from someone else's album, albeit highly enjoyable ones.

2D also sits out "Busted and Blue", but not in the way you'd expect; the animated character is absent because the song is sung by real life human being Damon Albarn, natural accent pronounced and free of cartoon exaggerations. It's the point where all pretensions, politics and wacky humour are stripped away, along with the idea that Gorillaz was ever anything more than two dudes, one behind a mic. "Busted" is almost a sister to "Thought I Was a Spaceman", the standout on Blur's The Magic Whip; where in that song the titular spaceman was tethered to the earth digging up sand dunes, here Damon compares himself to a satellite lost in orbit, a heavenly female vocal surfacing to symbolise the planet he's trying to get back to. There's a reason it and "Andromeda" are dead centre, because all Gorillaz albums need an emotional core for us to grab onto amidst the freakshow – "On Melancholy Hill", "El Mañana", "Slow Country". This time around, the music peels right back for Damon to make heartfelt tributes to childhood haunts and lost loved ones. ("Andromeda" name-checks the late Bobby Womack, in a gut punch moment that gets more powerful every time I spin it). If nothing else, there's never been a more potent emotional core for a Gorillaz album than this.

So what is Humanz" Is it a letdown that needed a few more months in the oven, or a transcendental work of political and emotional genius" The truth is somewhere in the middle as always, but for every dumb interlude or misjudged feature or weak beat, there are at least two moments of genuine brilliance here. It may not inspire a revolution or magically fix the problems of the Trump administration, but it's a comforting and rewarding listen. Make no mistake; this is still a frustrating, confusing mess, where incongruous elements collide and then go rattling around the edges of tracks without any rhyme or reason. In other words, it's a Gorillaz album through and through.



Recent reviews by this author
The Used The CanyonWeezer Pacific Daydream
Wu-Tang Clan The Saga ContinuesCirca Survive Juturna
Sufferer SuffererEnter Shikari The Spark
user ratings (461)
Chart.
2.9
good
other reviews of this album
PerfumeFrog (2.5)
1D...

2X17 (2.5)
If this be the end... then so shall it be!...


Comments:Add a Comment 
Rowan5215
Staff Reviewer
April 29th 2017


39421 Comments

Album Rating: 3.8

hey

Digging: The Used - The Canyon

Tunaboy45
April 29th 2017


15609 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Rowbro giving this album some love

Digging: Converge - The Dusk in Us

RaylanCrowder
April 29th 2017


64 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Good review. I've struggled to get into this album so far, so haven't given it a rating. I'm thinking I'll end up giving this a 3.5



"this is still a frustrating, confusing mess"

I have to agree with this, it's like Gorillaz's version of the 2003 album Hail to the Thief. A whole lot more tracks are on this than I expected there to be, and given the political themes, it isn't as tight or consistent as Albarn's songwriting on The Magic Whip two years ago

Tunaboy45
April 29th 2017


15609 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

This is definitely going to be a grower for a lot of people.

Rowan5215
Staff Reviewer
April 29th 2017


39421 Comments

Album Rating: 3.8

Hail to the Thief is actually a great comparison imo, I love that album to death and mainly because it's so fucking weirdly sequenced and all over the place. charming rawness



also my rating for the deluxe is like .4 higher than the regular

RaylanCrowder
April 29th 2017


64 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

"This is definitely going to be a grower for a lot of people"



Yeah I think that also fits into my Hail to the Thief comparison. Wasn't that album also a grower and considered a bit of a mess or an overlong album despite its positives and the political lyrics resonating with people?

RaylanCrowder
April 29th 2017


64 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

"Hail to the Thief is actually a great comparison imo"



Thanks, I didn't think of it initially, only sprang to mind after reading the closing paragraph of your review

Tunaboy45
April 29th 2017


15609 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

The Apprentice and Ticker Tape are great songs

Rowan5215
Staff Reviewer
April 29th 2017


39421 Comments

Album Rating: 3.8

HTTT is still mad underrated by Radiohead fans despite having a healthy portion of their best tracks imo. that could very possibly be the case here in a couple years

Rowan5215
Staff Reviewer
April 29th 2017


39421 Comments

Album Rating: 3.8

Ticker Tape is top 10-ish Gorillaz all time

RaylanCrowder
April 29th 2017


64 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

"HTTT is underrated"



True, the only song I hear get mentioned a lot from that album is 2+2=5, and one of the songs on that album featuring on the FIFA game from that year lol

RaylanCrowder
April 29th 2017


64 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

"Ticker Tape is top 10-ish Gorillaz all time"



Yeah I'm a bit surprised it's only a bonus track and not on the album proper

conditionals
April 29th 2017


534 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Yeah Ticker Tape was the only one that really hit me on first listen, shame it's on the bonus and therefore not on the vinyl.

Anyway this sounds nice but, while I don't mind the clusterfuck nature of the individual tracks, it was a bit overwhelming when strung together as an album. Let's see how it grows.

Oh BTW, talking of iPads, there's a big circlejerk in the gorillaz subreddit where people suggest that the album isn't good because it was made on an iPad. It wasn't made on an iPad goddamnit. It was made on millions of dollars worth of studio equipment at various locations around the world.

Second BTW - really awesome review! Very well researched and aligns with what I was thinking exactly.

Tunaboy45
April 29th 2017


15609 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

The skeletons of the songs were planned on an ipad but the actual songs were made in a ton of different studios. I think overwhelming is the best way to put it, there's a lot to digest.

RaylanCrowder
April 29th 2017


64 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

""Busted" is almost a sister to "Thought I Was a Spaceman", the standout on Blur's The Magic Whip"



Nah mate, "Pyongyang" is by far the best song on that album for me. But I agree, the similarities between Busted and Spaceman are striking

Tunaboy45
April 29th 2017


15609 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Agreed Pyongyang is the highlight from that album but TIWAS is up there.

Rowan5215
Staff Reviewer
April 29th 2017


39421 Comments

Album Rating: 3.8

yeah conditions it wasn't 100% iPad for sure but the basic beats were definitely made in something like Garageband and it shows. thanks for the posi words!



Pyongyang is beautiful but man when the vocals go up a pitch on Spaceman is like a top tier Blur moment

RaylanCrowder
April 29th 2017


64 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

"Pyongyang is beautiful but man when the vocals go up a pitch on Spaceman is like a top tier Blur moment"



Do you mean the parts where he says "you again"? Yeah, can't argue with that lol. Definitely my second or third favourite song on the album, since I also have a soft spot for Ice Cream Man

Tunaboy45
April 29th 2017


15609 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

And let it be youuuuuuu agaaaaain

Rowan5215
Staff Reviewer
April 29th 2017


39421 Comments

Album Rating: 3.8

no I mean the last chorus, when the "thought was a spaceman" melody gets a little tighter and the vocals go up a pitch. (is it Graham singing that part?) either way, incredible



You have to be logged in to post a comment. Login | Create a Profile





STAFF & CONTRIBUTORS // SITE FORUM // CONTACT US

Bands: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z


Site Copyright 2005-2017 Sputnikmusic.com
All Album Reviews Displayed With Permission of Authors | Terms of Use | Privacy Policy