If there’s one thing to know about Gorillaz, it’s this: Their music thrives on instability. Whenever it seems like our world is on the tipping point of disaster, this now well-known virtual band comes out of hiding and drops another album. In 2005 it was Demon Days, with the economy heading toward recession. In 2010 it was Plastic Beach, with subtle notes of environmentalism ingrained in each track. And now, in 2017, the virtual band is back at it with Humanz, an album devoted to the discontent and dystopian panic caused by Donald Trump’s election victory.
Released April 28, Humanz is Gorillaz’ fifth studio album. Much like its predecessors, the album’s track list features a variety of guests and collaborators, including Vince Staples, Grace Jones, D.R.A.M., Danny Brown and Kelela. Unlike its predecessors, the album has a tough job finding a fully cohesive theme or feeling. It’s unstable, that’s for sure — although this time it doesn’t necessarily thrive on the lack of stability.
This isn’t to say necessarily that the album is bad. On the contrary, the majority of songs found on Humanz are pretty good. Some of the more noteworthy highlights are “Ascension,” “Momentz” and “Let Me Out,” three fairly rap-heavy tracks that individually touch on the building chaos of our nation’s social climate. And of course, there’s “Hallelujah Money,” a protest song released the day before Trump’s inauguration. The slow, rich voice of British singer Benjamin Clementine is the primary focus of this song, making direct allusions to Trump with lines such as “I thought the best way to protect our tree/ is by building walls.”
But if a cohesive theme or genre is what you’re looking for, Humanz isn’t the album that’s going to deliver on your wishes. “Busted and Blue” is a slow, haunting yet beautiful song that touches predominantly on the isolation felt in a world full of technology. Meanwhile, “Strobelite” and “Andromeda” sound like they belong in the midst of a wild ’80s-themed dance party. Even the uplifting “We Got The Power” seems out of place, relying on a fun, upbeat and poppy vibe to get its message across. These songs aren’t quite bad — I’d probably name “Andromeda” as one of my favorite songs on the album — but they just don’t fit the overarching vibe the album seems to be going for.
Part of the reason the album may seem so inconsistent is because a majority of songs are collaborations with other artists. While adding guests and collaborators can spice up the style of a song, with Humanz it seems as if Gorillaz might have gone overboard. Instead of a unified album, the entire work feels like a glorified mixtape — strong with individual songs, but lacking when it comes to cohesiveness.