On Gorillaz latest album, The Now Now, Damon Albarn and company tone down the guest artist slots and take a more serious approach to their songwriting craft. This LP, the sixth total for the group, was recorded in February 2018 and has now hit our eardrums a mere 14 months after the release of Humanz. The results of this strategy are well-rewarded as the Gorillaz have crafted an album sure to please their core audience, while still impressing casual fans of the group.
Every aspect of this album showcases the brilliance of Albarn as a songwriter, and they have re-branded themselves as true “artists” right down to the cover art of the familiar ape playing a guitar as if he just sat down to showcase a few tunes for a coffee shop audience. The first track, which features a guest contributor in George Benson, titled “Humility,” showcases some cool jazzy guitar elements and finds Albarn singing, “Reset myself and get back on track,” which could very well be the overall disclaimer for this album. The Gorillaz have found themselves in a new state of mind for this LP and have come back re-focused on a record worthy of your attention and multiple appearances in your new music rotation.
“Tranz” is the a Gorillaz attempt a dance-floor anthem, with fuzzy guitars, a dancehall beat and an uplifting chorus. It’s on songs like these that the Gorillaz are truly in tune with what works for them and will keep themselves more than relevant in the music picture by coming out with a consistent flow of creative songs that still have a great deal of substance behind them.
Additionally, the Gorillaz still have a ton of “Hollywood”-pull by getting A-listers such as Snoop Dogg on the aforementioned track in a way that doesn’t force the issue of the guest artist spot. With that I mean that the Gorillaz “pick their shots” with when and where to enhance their sound with an outside voice to create their art. It all just seems to gel together with what the Gorillaz have put forth in their back catalog, and finds them painting with new colors on The Now Now.
The bubbly guitars and fuzz pedals found on “Kansas” and “Sorcererz” are a trippy blast, paying homage to groups such as Pink Floyd and The Flaming Lips. The turn down the noise on the delicately played “Idaho” which features some rare acoustic guitar from Albarn as he croons, “I landed on the silver lake/Washed up and feeling blue/Heard the sound of footsteps/Drifting slowly to the moon.” This near-country tinged ballad is a beautiful departure from what we have grown to expect from this group, even if it feels a tad out of place from the other songs on the record, sound-wise. Lyrically, however, the content is right up the alley of the overall landscape of material found on the LP.
“Lake Zurich” brings back the dance vibes quickly, and with its go-go beat, and club ready atmosphere, its a mid-album treat. “Magic City” broods with the confidence one would expect from the established songwriters and performers found in this group, and continues the ever-trippy vibes that were prevalent in the early stages of the album.
The closing three tracks of “Fire Flies,” “One Percent,” and “Souk Eye” for me, kind of limped to the finish line as the mid-tempo to near-acoustic tracks close out an otherwise brilliant effort from the supergroup. If they had included one more upbeat element towards the later stages of the CD, I feel it would have been a more complete statement. However, with plenty of new elements found on The Now Now, listeners will enjoy taking deeper dives into the lyrical and musical content for years to come.