Gorillaz live in the “Now, Now”

Sean Armstrong | Staff Writer


The Now, Now is the latest album by Damon Albarn’s musical side-project The Gorillaz, and for many fans, they’ll be wishing it was the “past, past.”

To be clear, the album in and of itself isn’t bad. The music doesn’t stand out when compared to the work the project has produced in the past. Still, this iteration has proved to be better than the last creation, but for almost the opposite reason.

The Gorillaz has always ridden a small, but a fine line between two genres: hip-hop and Brit-pop. However, the project seemed to throw that line out the window with Humanz by creating an album that was almost purely hip-hop, now, about a year later, The Now, Now has done a 180 and become little more than Brit-pop.

In the past, The Gorillaz was about creating a musical experience that smashed preconceptions such as needing a specific genre or an easily identifiable message.This approach was taken to create an atmosphere where the listener can find meaning where they choose to by throwing out a multitude of ideas, but without the obvious connection between these thoughts.

Currently, The Gorillaz, since its reboot in April 2017, lost what made the project the Grammy winner it once was, but that is not all on Albarn.

What has changed in the seven-year break between The Fall and Humanz is the uniqueness of the sound The Gorillaz generated. This is partly because of the break, and that artists like De La Soul, Danny Brown and Tyler The Creator have taken up the mantle from The Gorillaz by combining elements of hip-hop with a Brit-pop influenced beat.

Understanding that Albarn has come back to reclaim a space in the international music scene that has found countless suitors, many of which dominate the alternative hip-hop genre, is crucial. It’s vital because that allows fans to temper their expectations of what The Gorillaz is, and not what it used to be.

The Now, Now has plenty of good music to be found, but not if the listener is expecting music of the cutting-edge and experimental nature Albarn once produced. Instead, fans should come to expect a blend of Brit-pop and hip-hop, but without the fine line that once existed.

Hallmarks of past works like abstract lyrics, psychedelic songs that entrance and magnetic energy that makes even the biggest extrovert become an introvert are all still on offer. What this work lacks is the catchy hooks, an overall theme centering around a specific counter culture idea and a constant mood shift in the music from up to down to back up again.

Instead, this iteration opts for an album that builds up momentum until the third track, “Hollywood” featuring Snoop Dogg and Jamie Principle, ushers in the little hip-hop influence this album has before plateauing. After the third song, this album becomes almost indistinguishable from track to track. The work doesn’t bring in new energy, it doesn’t offer a noticeable sound change and it ends without the listener getting any grand finale to signal the conclusion.

Albarn made this album unremarkable by subtracting from the formula that made The GOrillaz famous. Before this project, it was almost unthinkable to say that hip-hop lyrics could both be abstract and catchy, or that hip-hop and Brit-pop could go together like vanilla and chocolate, but after that, many artists adopted these ideas and improved upon them.

The Now, Now, for what it is, is good, but the listener could pick up a Blur album or some of Albarn’s solo work to enjoy the same sound. The Gorillaz isn’t The Gorillaz on this album, but maybe, that’s because The Gorillaz hit their prime in the 2000s and early 2010s and therefore can’t live in the now, now.