While Albarn’s unmistakable brand of melancholia and deft knack for a melody are sprinkled over every track, it sometimes feels a bit like the album’s creaking under the weight of its guest stars. In fact, it’s when Albarn takes centre stage with the futuristic blue-eyed soul of ‘Andromeda’ followed by the hauntingly low-key ‘Busted and Blue’ that ‘Humanz’ really starts to breathe and settle into itself a little.
There’s undoubtedly moments of brilliance on this record. Getting Jehnny Beth of agit punk band Savages and Noel Gallagher to guest on the exuberant closer ‘We Got the Power’ shows Albarn’s still bringing a wry sense of humour to the Gorillaz project, and the boy from Blur’s proved once again that he can cut it making r’n’b and pop-inflected hip hop with the best of them. And when you consider that the first Gorillaz record dropped 16 years ago now, you might argue a band that’s been knocking around for so long (albeit a virtual one with a revolving line-up) has any right to be making music that still sounds so fresh and of the moment.
But taken as a whole, there’s a feeling that the concept’s
serving the guest stars here, rather than the guests serving the concept and
the album doesn’t quite have the cohesiveness of ‘Demon Days’ and ‘Plastic
Beach’ or the songs that will communicate on the same mass level. Then again,
the bar’s been set pretty high. Maybe Gorillaz are humanz after all.
Sean Griffiths is Mixmag's Deputy Editor. Follow him on Twitter