Gorillaz: The Now Now Album Review

Oct. 29, 2018

Since their inception in 2007, the Gorillaz have stirred up the music scene with off-kilter songs that make listeners ponder the meaning of life while nodding along to boisterous beats. Their newest album, The Now Now, is no different from past projects that get us scratching our heads while feeling something emotionally palpable. While it has a strong electric presence and fun 80s synths, the album is not without thought-provoking lyrics or themes that color the (somewhat convoluted) story that surrounds this enigmatic digital band. The Now Now continues the strange yet engrossing story of the Gorillaz, this time chronicling the emotional anxiety that follows losing someone who was once close.

Due to the aforementioned tumultuous relationship between the band members of the Gorillaz, The Now Now features 2-D as their new lead singer, as the previous one, Murdoc, is currently locked away in jail for reasons unknown. Murdoc has since been mind-bogglingly replaced by Ace, leader of the Gangreen Gang from the popular 90s cartoon series PowerPuff Girls on the bass guitar. The album begins with Humility featuring the legendary jazz guitarist George Benson, returning to the Billboard Hot 100s after 33 years. Benson’s return is glorious, with his electric guitar elevating Humility with gleeful strums, hooking the listener with thoughts of a day at the beach (which is exactly where the official video takes place). 2-D’s lyrics travel in quite the opposite direction, with the first line of the song being “Calling the world from isolation, cause right now that’s the ball where we be chained, and if you’re coming back to find me, you better have good aim”.

The song itself is a tug of war in conflicting themes, with the guitar urging listeners to cheer up while 2-D reminds us of how alone people often feel, very likely functioning as a nod to the current political climate. The album itself is a lot like attending a great party, but then remembering the responsibilities you neglected in order to attend said party. Thankfully, the lyrics of Humility are sung with a blue/moody whisper by 2-D, which adds a vulnerability to the song that only makes it more endearing. The result makes the listener feel a sort of happy hopelessness, which is a good template to keep in mind when listening to the rest of the album.

After Humility successfully sets the tone, The Now Now welcomes fun features from Snoop Dogg and Jamie Principle in Hollywood, the third track on the album. Hollywood evokes a very different attitude, with 80s and digital house music synths that give a fun feeling of nostalgia for listeners. Jamie Principle performs his verse almost as a spoken word piece, soberly warning the listener of the dangers of greed in Hollywood (despite the lyrics that follow implying Principle enjoys Hollywood perks himself).

Snoop Dogg joins the track directly after Principle, gloating of his money and expensive jewelry, selling the self-same image of Hollywood that Jamie Principle seems to be warning us about. 2-D sings a chorus warning of “jealousy and dark times, sinking on the web, there’s more to love than that” his voice seemingly lethargic, likely bored of what Hollywood has to offer. At this point in the album, 2-D’s consistently solemn lyrics seem to be calling out to someone, likely Murdoc, who was known to be abusive toward 2-D in particular, but whom 2-D may actually miss due to their having started the band together.    

The beginning of The Now Now features more optimistic beats, but listeners get closer to the emotional core of the album as we dig deeper into the track list. Songs like Kansas, Idaho and Fire Flies bring some tonal and thematic synchronicity, all marking feelings for someone or something that has since gone. Kansas in particular references losing a silver lining, indicating a final loss of hope.

The final track on The Now Now, Souk Eye, brings the heart of the album full circle with lyrics that seem to directly respond to Humility. 2-D sings a sad plea that features a slow and sad guitar, with each pick of the guitar like a tear fallen after a long stage of denial. The same guitar featured in Humility is present again, this time in a downbeat that comes full circle with the emotional core of the album. In Souk Eye, 2-D sings “I will always think about you, that’s why I’m calling you back, on my way through”, a direct response to the lyrics in Humility, “I need you in the picture, that’s why I’m calling you”.

Overall, the album brings the listener through the familiar emotional journey of losing a friend over circumstances that seem out of one’s control. The Now Now brings the listener closer to the connection of the colorful backstory of Gorillaz and finds a clever way to include listeners to the turmoil experienced by the band indefinitely losing one of their members. Regardless of where the band’s dramatic story line may go from here, this album won’t disappoint longtime fans of Gorillaz, and is still enjoyable by those who might be attracted to their music for the first time.  

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