I feel like someone needs to come out and say this, so I'm going to do it: the new Gorillaz album Humanz sucks. I tried to play it while a few friends were over for drinks and found I had to turn it off.
I'm not entirely sure if the reason for this is that Demon Days is one of the best albums of all time. It could be that the standard was set so high that nothing will ever come close. But, for the sake of confirming my bias, I'm going to sit here and share my thoughts as I listen through the album.
Disclaimer: this is my personal opinion. I can't write a better album. I'm just a wannabe critic.
The main issue I have with Humanz is that it seems to lack any sort of cohesion or concept. Rather, it's a series of disconnected songs that are light on catchy melody or style. There are too many random features -- a seemingly transparent attempt to branch out to additional fan-bases, and each song sounds like it was forced as the product of a rushed studio session, rather than part of Damon's master plan. Granted, I wasn't there, so I could be wrong -- I'm just saying that it sounds like that.
Track-by-track (mental) breakdown:
- Intro. We'll just skip this...
- "Ascension": The song starts out strong with Vince Staples' energy. It's certainly an ear-grabber; a strong announcement that Gorillaz are back.
- This is followed by "Strobelite," which features Peven Everett. It has a pretty safe and easy-going sound, and the vocals are pretty uninspiring. They sound like familiar soul/funk vocals, and the overall song leaves me feeling flat following the energy of "Ascension." It drags its feet to the point that I want to turn it off before it ends.
- Next up, "Saturn Burnz" featuring Popcaan. This was one of the original singles released, and might be a play at today's modern penchant for excessive autotune. It's not a bad track... still probably one of the stronger. Certainly a step-up from "Strobelite," and one of the only ones to hint at a bit more of that character/story-telling that Gorillaz did so well in the past.
- "Momentz": Finally, a song with De La Soul! Except that it's really frickin' hard to listen to. The melody sucks and the overall tempo is frantic. Blah. More stupid fucking autotune, as well.
- An interlude! Is this an attempt at cohesion and themes? Why the hell is it autotuned? Stupid.
- Okay, so here's "Submission," probably the most talk-worthy track on the album, just because Danny Brown is such a fucking character. Too bad the Kelela singing is sorta off-key or dissonant. That might be intentional relative to the backing harmonies, but yeah... it's just lame singing in general. Generic pop vibes. Finally, after more than 2 minutes of terrible singing we get Danny Brown. I actually kinda like his cameo, though I don't think I'd want this played at a casual party. Unfortunately, the song rounds out with more shit singing
- As you can tell, my reaction to each song is getting more and more heated. This album is clearly pissing me off
- Okay, Grace Jones on "Charger!" This is unique... except what the hell is Damon doing? He sounds like a school child bumbling over a melody without any real direction. And that backing guitar is gonna drive me nuts. Grace Jones can't save this trainwreck
- Okay here we go. "Andromeda" -- one of the easiest-to-approach songs on the album, with a catchy melody and an enjoyable style. It's the only song I actually like -- perhaps in part because Bonobo created one of the year's best remixes with it
- "Busted and Blue": Ohh finally, a rest from all the hectic shit we've had to listen to. It's nice as an "Andromeda" follow-up, and again -- one of the hints at something slightly thematic. It kinda drags along for a bit long, but at this point I'm probably just impossible to please
- "Interlude" #2 -- again, weird and I'm not really sure how this fits in with the rest of the album, except perhaps as an attempt to create something from nothing
- "Carnival" featuring Anthony Hamilton. It sounds like joke-singing. I can't possibly see myself putting this song on in the background
- "Let Me Out" featuring Mavis Staples & Pusha T. Again, one of the better tracks -- a distinct Kanye vibe. No surprises this was released as a single
- Another interlude. So yeah...
- "Sex Murder Party" featuring Jamie Principle and Zebra Katz. This is just annoying
- "She's My Collar": Definitely has a more distinct Gorillaz vibe to it. Probably because Damon is the main focus up to the 2-minute-mark, then Kali Uchis makes her intro. I actually quite like her voice, though I find the overall song to be quite repetitive and monotonous. Perhaps I'm just critiquing for the sake of critiquing
- Interlude: "Elephant." The elephant in the room being that this album isn't nice to listen to?
- "Hallelujah Money," the first song to be released off the album. When it came out, I was skeptical. I wanted to give them the benefit of the doubt, but honestly -- I was worried that it signaled a less-than-stellar album was around the corner
- "We Got The Power" was another one of the early singles, and I found it kinda cheesy. It definitely has one of the catchier vibes, but overall... cheesy
- Another interlude! Honestly, these aren't making the album feel cohesive. And this one, in particular, is hard on the ears
- "The Apprentice" featuring a bunch of people. I don't like the tempo or the melody. I'm a party-pooper. The hip-hop is nice, though. I wish there was more in this vein throughout the album, a la MF Doom.
- "Halfway to the Halfway House" is another example of the type of singing I don't like. Falsetto and bad
- "Out Of Body": Kilo Kish! I like Kilo Kish. It's a unique song and I like it more than most of the others on the album. The part approaching 1:50 is kinda yucky tho. Kilo Kish (I think?) steals the show with her unique style of hip-hop; I can't say I'm that into the singing tho
- "Ticker Tape": We're almost at the end! Hooray! This sounds like some sort of N64-inspired 8-bit music. The changeup around 2:50 is nice -- one of the nicest moments on the whole album. This is probably a highlight of the album, and it only took 25 songs to get there
- "Circle Of Friends" just... shouldn't be there. Feels like some dudes just messing around on a random song.
Image source: Gorillaz Facebook