Back after a lengthy delay, Gorillaz’ latest album has led to being one of the most anticipated records of the year but ultimately proves to be a somewhat hyped collection of songs that struggle to support one another both thematically and sonically.
In hindsight, I suppose my reservations about this album are not surprising to myself considering the thoughts I had about the early singles. Specifically, the track “Hallelujah Money”, a song that still remains one of the most obtuse and directionless tracks from the group and the somewhat recent showcase of the song “Saturnz Barz”, an incredible VR music video but a track that (for me at least) began to dwindle in catchiness over time due to overly saturated autotune that lost any appeal after the fourth or fifth listen.
To clarify, this is not any sort of admittance that I wanted or specifically anticipated this album to be bad. As a longtime Gorillaz fan, it pains me more than anything to say that I feel like this record is anything short of incredible. Even Plastic Beach, an album with many critiques felt like a stronger effort than the entirety of this latest release.
The biggest flaw to be said of Humanz is within its overtly long tracklisting. Sitting at a whopping 26 songs for the deluxe version, (which released alongside the standard 20 track edition) this record suffers from the notorious ‘more is better’ fallacy that so many comeback albums tend to practice to no avail.
Speaking generously, there are probably 5 songs provided here that I would not skip outside of a review setting. The hardest part of reviewing this album was definitely within my ability to focus on the copious amounts of lackluster and overly expository tracks that could not lead to anything noteworthy.
Tracks such as “Momentz” attempt to bring a new direction to classic acts such as De La Soul by throwing in rare uses of vocal filtration (autotune) to the typical jazz rap trio. This effect does not fair too well and creates an awkward sound that feels too left field as if the writing process this go-around was centered around being as random as humanly possible.
The lyrics on this song as also rubbish and downright confusing. A sample being:
Got a girl who’s up for the matin’
I sense the need in her grammar
Her nose has never been skatin’ (Uh-huh)
But she’s sippin’ star constellation (Shit)
For real, her squirt game was so like 2Pac out of court run towards camera (Uh-huh)
Her response to that was just, “Check please”
In most cases, it would seem like the most ridiculous complaint in the world to claim that Gorillaz’ sound is too dynamic, a feature that is often niche to every piece that band has created. Unfortunately, Damon Albarn’s efforts to continue his dynamic group begin to reveal a tired formula that is beginning to show signs of being milked too far.
Even the tracks that I somewhat enjoy on this album feel like they will only amount to short-term listens. “Ascension” shows a fast paced introduction that roused my attention upon the first several listens but can feel slightly repetitive after hearing “drop that ass ‘fore it crash” after a number of times. Even the Danny Brown song “Submission” starts off with an unfitting vocal lead that hardly prepares the audience for the rap verse during the latter half of the track.
“Andromeda” is another song that is enjoyable but feels like a silly excuse to tack on another extra ‘culturally relevant’ feature of D.R.A.M. that will slip past your ears if you are not focusing attention at the exact moment of his short chorus.
When looking at what went wrong with this album, the clearest reason is in the approach that was taken with each track. It’s as if the writing followed the guidelines of ‘the song must either consist of a simple; repetitive chorus or a meandering series of verses with a passable chorus line’. What happened to blissful hook buildup of “Empire Antz” or the introspective yet playful lyricism of “19-2000”? Almost every track here feels like there is more to be said or a sound to expand upon.
I wish I could like this album a little bit more but my overall feelings post-listening leave me underwhelmed, confused and even more fearful of comeback records in general. My honest opinion of this album is a 4/10.