Review: Damon Albarn masterminds chaos on new Gorillaz album
Gorillaz, “Humanz” (Warner Bros.)
Damon Albarn masterminds a chaotic party on “Humanz,” the fifth album by Gorillaz, the virtual band relying on an extensive guest list, from De La Soul and Peven Everett to D.R.A.M. and Grace Jones.
Across 20 tracks, including five interludes, Albarn creates a beat-heavy soundtrack to Donald Trump’s victory, his nightmare scenario, while excising any direct references to the president. It’s a fractured but powerful album, like reality itself.
Vince Staples sets the political tone with “Ascension,” a dire portrait of a country “where you can get a Glock and a gram for the cheap, where you can live your dreams long as you don’t look like me.”
Jamaica’s Popcaan elevates the reggae-inflected “Saturnz Barz,” followed by De La Soul on the insistent “Momentz,” where “clocks on the wall talk to watches on the wrist.” On “Submission,” Kelela’s velvety vocals contrast with Danny Brown’s desperate rap.
So where’s Albarn? Everywhere, but especially on the backing tracks. He wrote or co-wrote the songs and performs most of the music but only the reflective “Busted and Blue” is almost him alone. It’s a little midpoint oasis before more guest vocalists like Mavis Staples and Anthony Hamilton.
While “Humanz” relies principally on American contributors, Albarn shares the closing tracks with fellow Brits, like Benjamin Clementine and Jehnny Beth from the band Savages.
Even Britpop rival Noel Gallagher appears on “We Got the Power,” which bids the album farewell while offering hope in a new era — “We got the power to be loving each other, no matter what happens, we’ve got the power to do that.”
In the end, home is where the heart is.