Gorillaz
Song Machine, Season One: Strange Timez


3.8
excellent

Review

by Benjamin Kuettel STAFF
October 30th, 2020 | 79 replies


Release Date: 10/23/2020 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Gorillaz continue their gradual rise in quality from these past four years and achieve a return to form.

Damon Albarn of Blur has long used his virtual band Gorillaz as an avenue to indulge in all manner of pop and electronic music experimentation. They are best known for a run of highly successful alternative rock and trip hop albums with numerous B-sides from 2000–2010. The wait time between each release gradually got longer and longer, until recent years when Gorillaz have been highly prolific and appear to currently be Albarn’s main project.

Song Machine, Season One: Strange Timez is the logical peak of a rise in quality since the low of their first release in seven years, Humanz in 2017, which was decent but inconsistent. Highlights like “Andromeda” and “Busted and Blue” were present, but there was also too much unnecessarily filler, an abundance of guest vocalists too often taking the place of Albarn, and underdeveloped songs and interludes. What makes Strange Timez even more of an achievement is how it functions as an anti–Humanz. Just as many guest singers, and perhaps even more musically sprawling, but has room to breathe and sounds inspired, evolved, and depthful.

Musical styles fluctuate from track to track between psychedelic pop, funk, soul, alternative rock, electronic, hip hop, etc. and almost feels like a greatest hits of every side of the Gorillaz sound dating back to their inception. “The Lost Chord” resurrects the tropical bliss of Plastic Beach to outstanding effect, with vocalists and instrumental layers including flutes and glittery synthesizers. “The Pink Phantom” featuring Elton John functions as a laid back ballad and could be a sequel to “Cloud of Unknowing.” Other standouts on the first half include the loopy title track featuring Robert Smith of The Cure and a dense Demon Days throwback song “The Valley of the Pagans” featuring Beck.

Strange Timez is more ambitious in the second half, blooming and coming alive in glorious fashion, with the exception of the middling underdeveloped rap song “Friday 13th.” Each track explodes with energy and creativity, being Albarn’s most inspired work since Plastic Beach and Demon Days. “Aries” makes use of great rhythms and a 1980s lead bass line while Albarn’s vocals channels The Cure. “Désolé” soars with a flavor of bossa nova, featuring violins and vocals from Grammy nominee Fatoumata Diawara. With the six bonus tracks included, especially the first three, this album is at least 80/100. “Opium” might even be the best song out of all seventeen.

The openness and inclusivity of Strange Timez makes it hard not to like. There is something for everyone and a huge amount of talent behind the songwriting and recording that makes it feel truly substantial. For anyone who thought Humanz was lacking, this completely rectifies it and proves that Gorillaz can sound like themselves while featuring a slew of various guest musicians and using them appropriately. Strange Timez doesn’t break a whole lot of new ground, but it’s Damon Albarn’s strongest release since Plastic Beach and an infectious celebration of the unique legacy of Gorillaz.



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3.6
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In this, the year 2020, Gorillaz have delivered unto us… a Gorillaz album....



Comments:Add a Comment 
TalonsOfFire
Staff Reviewer
October 30th 2020


19087 Comments

Album Rating: 3.8

This was released last Friday. Deluxe Edition is the way to go in my opinion, their best collection of B-sides in a while.

Digging: Phoebe Bridgers - If We Make It Through December

Lord(e)Po)))ts
October 30th 2020


62314 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0 | Sound Off

you know they really wouldn't have to keep making deluxe editions if they just took the awful songs off the normal alb and replaced them with the good b-sides

Digging: MYSS KETA - IL CIELO NON E UN LIMITE

Lord(e)Po)))ts
October 30th 2020


62314 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0 | Sound Off

both this and humanz could be greatly improved in that manner

bloc
October 30th 2020


64138 Comments


Haven't listened to these guys since Plastic Beach

Digging: Big Kahuna OG and Monday Night - Thug Tear

TalonsOfFire
Staff Reviewer
October 30th 2020


19087 Comments

Album Rating: 3.8

That is true of this band and some others who have many b-sides for their albums. A positive about this day and age is that iTunes library and Spotify allow for playlists so the perfect album can be made to suit what the individual wants it to be.

Check out The Now Now and this bloc; even The Fall and Humanz have some really good tracks. Damon Albarn's solo album and The Magic Whip by Blur are solid too.

Lord(e)Po)))ts
October 30th 2020


62314 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0 | Sound Off

I like when artists make their own good albums rather than me having to do it for them personally

zoso33
October 30th 2020


552 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Am I the only person that likes Friday 13th??





Lord(e)Po)))ts
October 30th 2020


62314 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0 | Sound Off

Nope I like it

zoso33
October 30th 2020


552 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Oh thank goodness this a step up, best since plastic

zoso33
October 30th 2020


552 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

as always its divisive but hey its damon

IsolatedSymmetry
October 30th 2020


17 Comments


Nice review. Album is a bit too long for me but Momentary Bliss is still one of my favourite tracks of the year.

rabidfish
October 30th 2020


6182 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5 | Sound Off

i love friday 13th, bro

Digging: Masayoshi Fujita - Apologues

Eons
October 30th 2020


2870 Comments


i cant remember even one melody, guitar riff, bass line or beat or anything from their last album that's how boring Humanz was for me.

Digging: Paradise Lost - Obsidian

rabidfish
October 30th 2020


6182 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5 | Sound Off

you can't even remember the now now, so maybe that was even more boring.

Eons
October 30th 2020


2870 Comments


that felt less like a proper album

Eons
October 30th 2020


2870 Comments


it literally came out right at the same time as humanz

Gyromania
October 30th 2020


30937 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

This thing rulea. Way, way bettet than their last album. Probably their best since plastic beach

bloc
October 30th 2020


64138 Comments


I am liking this a lot. Really diverse set of songs.

iambandersnatch
October 30th 2020


1878 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5 | Sound Off

Compared to the last 2 albums this is definitely more consistent, every song is fairly enjoyable, but at the same time the best songs on humanz and now now are better than the best songs here. This album is a consistent 3-3.5 but with no bangers. I like a few songs a bit more than the others but there's nothing here that I'm over the moon for.



"I am liking this a lot. Really diverse set of songs." That's just Damon and his Gorillaz stuff since the beginning. Impressive what he's done, all these albums and no two songs really sound the same at all. Not easy to do

Lord(e)Po)))ts
October 30th 2020


62314 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0 | Sound Off

Best songs on this are leaaaaagues better than anything on either humanz or now now imo



Could not disagree more about consistency. Album ranges from 1/5 songs to 5/5 songs lmao. But it is better than the last two for sure



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