Courtesy of Pitchfork

March 26, 2017

Gorillaz is Back and It Feels Good

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Yesterday may have been cloudy, rainy, windy and overall depressing, but Gorillaz came through and released four new songs. I’ve been a fan of British virtual band Gorillaz since the early 2000s. I would jam to “Clint Eastwood” when I was in elementary school (I was the coolest, edgiest third-grader in my day), rapped along to “Feel Good Inc” and when every high school crush rejected me, “On Melancholy Hill” healed me. Creators Damon Albarn and Jamie Hewlett not only created the members 2D, Noodle, Murdoc and Russel, but they gave these characters a story and world of their own, which they have shared with us through music and animation. Since then, I have eagerly dropped whatever I was doing to listen to any new songs when they’re released. However, Gorillaz had not released anything new after Plastic Beach in 2010 and I was slowly beginning to give up hope. Today, I squealed and even texted my mom in all caps when Gorillaz suddenly dropped four new songs — “Saturnz Barz,” “Andromeda,” “Ascension” and “We Got the Power” — in a Spotify playlist titled Humanz, along with a 360 music video.

Immediately, I noticed the playlist’s title and worried that the quirky, uncanny Gorillaz I had known for most of my life would begin to fade into something new and unfamiliar. While every track was a collaboration with another artist, they all sounded like a mix of every previous albums, prevalently Demon Days and Plastic Beach. However, the “Saturnz Barz” music video introduced the concept of Humanz, upcoming album to be released on April 28. Over the past few months, Albarn and Hewlett have been posting updates on the Gorillaz Instagram account in which they follow each of the members’ journeys following the complicated events from Plastic Beach, in which the four members went their separate ways. Murdoc attempts to rescue the band, but Noodle appears to die, leading to the band’s breaking up. Humanz does not appear to offer any explanation as to what really happened after Plastic Beach, but does tell us that the band is back together and making more amazing music.

The “Saturnz Barz” music video opens to a scene in which the viewer is on a train with the band members while what appears to be an iPad plays the actual music video. Here, the band enters a mysterious haunted house — which can be explored through the music video’s 360° feature — and are transported to space by the spirits present once they each take advantage of the empty house in different ways. These scenes take place on Saturn’s rings and the 360° view makes the video richer both in Saturn’s orbit and when the visuals get more abstract and trippy. The video explores the spiritual journey each member takes as they are haunted by the spirit house and forced to face these ghosts alone. This could be the turmoil from Plastic Beach coming back, but everything is too abstract to tell. Eventually, the band ends up back on Earth and leaves the haunted house behind as if nothing has happened.

Each of the four tracks has a distinct style: “Saturnz Barz” has a laidback, vaporwave sound, “We Got the Power” is upbeat and makes you want to jump, “Ascension” sounds like modern hip-hop and “Andromeda” brings back memories of “On Melancholy Hill.” They are all linked together by the band’s trademark bubbly, distorted sounds and 2D’s gentle, borderline rap vocal style.

Albarn and Hewlett have created an elaborate world and given 2D, Murdoc, Russel and Noodle life. They have given each member an Instagram account, and Noodle even has her own playlist on Spotify which consists of tracks by women who “are true pioneers in the writing, production and creation of music.” Albarn and Hewlett’s determination is shown through the complexity of the world Gorillaz lives in, and it appears that Humanz will showcase this more than any other album. I have waited seven years for this album — it looks like it might be worth it.

Viri Garcia is a freshman in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. She can be reached at [email protected]