When we last heard from Gorillaz, their fifth album “Humanz” was newly released. It was a comeback that left me so disappointed that the thought of another Gorillaz album filled me with dread. It was torture to make me myself listen to the album again. It was so overloaded and unfocused, which contributed to a very bad listening experience.
With “Humanz,” I knew that the days of “Demon Days” and “Plastic Beach” were long gone. The songwriting of Damon Albarn, the visual artwork of Jamie Hewlett and the brilliant usage of guest musicians had lost its appeal to me. I was confused, was I getting too old for their music? Or had the songwriting gone? It’s a question that was going back and forth in my mind for a while.
When “The Now Now” was announced, I wasn’t looking forward to it. I wasn’t going crazy about the singles, the album artwork hurts my eyes to look at and the pain of “Humanz” lingers on a year later. I began to think I was getting too old for Gorillaz. Then, I just stopped and started thinking, “Maybe I’m exaggerating this; maybe it won’t turn out as bad as I thought.”
I was right, to a degree. This is more tolerable than “Humanz.” What’s noticeable is that “The Now Now” doesn’t suffer from oversaturation of guest artists like “Humanz.” The majority of the album has no guest appearances. This brings a nice pace as we get to focus more on the “virtual band” (or Albarn) themselves. This record feels more focused in comparison to “Humanz,” as it focuses on the mood the songs are trying to provide.
I can see it being shown on tracks such as “Souk Eye” and “Tranz.” The former provides the summer breeze atmosphere; I love the finger-picked guitar that reminds one of a tropical area in an RPG video game. “Humility” is another good track that showcases the mood with its vibrant synths and George Benson’s guitar playing. As I listened, I immediately saw the imagery the music was painting.
However, I never got the feeling that this album has something special inside of it. There’s a lack of excitement whenever I’m listening to it. Now, the lack of excitement for me doesn’t necessarily have to mean an upbeat song. It can also be a moody track that has great instrumentation and lyrics. “Souk Eye” was an example of the moodiness. The distant vocals from Albarn and the dramatic instrumentation help bring the album to a close. The only problem is that most of the other tracks failed to impress and left a forgettable experience.
Come to think of it, listening to this album feels like background music to me. Even the visualizers for these songs on Gorillaz’s YouTube channel remind me of listening to video game music with a plain background. It feels worse looking at the repetitive swirling background, it hurts my eyes even more than looking at the album cover.
“The Now Now” is an album that I feel neutral about in the end. It’s more consistent but lacks the charm that their earlier albums had. This isn’t something I would voluntarily listen to, but something I would be okay with if I was walking around in a mall. Just keep those visualizers away from me.
Track Picks: “Humility,” “Tranz,” “Socererz,” and “Souk Eye”
Listen to “The Now Now” here: