Article by Andrés Alvarado
Damon Albarn and Jamie Hewlett‘s animated outfit, Gorillaz, tread across different musical terrain on their sixth offering. Coming off the 2017 celebrity-cameo riddled Humanz, the 2-D fronted virtual gang strolls onto silkier sound waves and deeper introspection on The Now Now. Recorded over the last year as the band toured in support of Humanz, The Now Now, unlike its predecessor, relies mostly on its composer’s shrewdness to entertain without the big-name assists. While The Now Now does sling out a trifecta of gnarly appearances from famous buddies (more on this later), it predominantly resonates as a continuance to 2010’s The Fall – just electronically funkier and increasingly soaked of quick-witted lyricism.
On its surface, The Now Now is mainly a 2-D album. Gracing the record cover by his lonesome, The Now Now is not necessarily a solo virtual offering; however, his persona is far and wide the driving force here. The groovy “Hollywood” may garner participation from hype-man Jamie Principle and hip-hop legend Mr. Snoop D-O-Double G, but this anthem spotlights 2-D plummeting into an element of that glitzy Tinseltown disco shtick; and conquering it. The soothing mid-paced tunage behind “Hollywood” waddles back and forth between a “just-chill” vibe and an opposing “hit-the-dance-floor” energy to create a yin and yang of cool.
“I’m not gonna cry // I got more time to give // I’m not gonna cry // Find another dream” croons 2-D on the synth-steered and ominously enchanting “Kansas.” A tune that seemingly drifts far from the structure of the imaginary Gorillaz sphere, and spews relatable verbiage that makes 2-D nearly akin to men of the Earth.
Other notable bangers within The Now Now are the dramatic cosmic beats tied to “Souk Eye,” the delectably messy arrangements of “Magic City,” the moody synths from “Fire Flies,” the glow-stick party sensibilities behind “Tranz,” and the instrumental beach rave character jointed to “Lake Zurich.” Of course, this review would be incomplete without a tip of the fictional hat to lead-single “Humility.” Arguably the premier single of The Now Now, “Humility” draws an airy and summery impression intertwined to that soulful R&B stroke of genius provided by the guitar licks of the one and only, Mr. George Benson.
Nonetheless, The Now Now does carry a few hiccups. Aside from the asinine tale of bassist Murdoc Niccals locked up in a fairy tale prison, the Gorillaz’ latest suffers from a touch of bizarro-world syndrome, or poor man’s doppelgänger, if you will. Fillers like “One Percent” and “Idaho” seem either forgettable, or cheap carbon copies of “Fire Flies” and “Kansas,” respectively. A less-is-more approach might have catapulted this album from very good to thoroughly impressive. Alas, very good is nothing to thumb your nose at.
Overall, The Now Now is a gorgeously plain variant from the Gorillaz. The flashy friends are in short supply and the melodies showcase a mellow nature. Albarn’s deep lyricism and passionate croons over 2-D’s imaginary soul alleviate in a very real way. The Now Now is not the Gorillaz’ finest release, but it is definitely a worthy addition to an already stellar discography. Cheers!
Score: 7/10 — Key Tracks: “Hollywood,” “Humility,” “Souk Eye,” and “Magic City.”