Thinking of the end of the world, like if Trump were to win the presidency, was the advice given to the featured artists on the fifth studio album from Gorillaz. Humanz, in the words of Damon Albarn, is “a party record about the world going fucking nuts.” This was before Trump won the Republican nomination mind you. While the record swings all over the collaboration Richter scale, the profundity from contemplating such a prospect is missing; probably because the artists were supposed to indirectly feel about the possible 2016 election outcome. The name “Trump” is never mentioned; and though it doesn’t have to show up, the need to stay within hypothetical bounds does not allow for a deeper realization. It’s almost like you want to sincerely talk about the pain and torture of your childhood, but without mentioning your parents. Albarn has in the past stripped himself down to the core, specifically on solo project Everyday Robots, which incidentally takes a close snapshot of his childhood insides. Even Blur’s The Magic Whip takes a deeper and more mature perspective. Humanz acts more like a gathering of artists, a compilation, musing about what the world would be like if the worst were to happen than a standard Gorillaz album; however, there is no sacrificing of cohesion as it all fits oddly well together.
The opening two tracks interpret the precise feel Albarn had in his concentration. The upbeat, hip-hop “Ascension” featuring Vince Staples and synth funk “Strobelite” featuring Peven Everett straddle between the discontent for sinking into a concerning time period and going out clubbin’. It’s uncanny how Gorillaz highlight the way people are in general, despite which administration is in command. They may be aggressive towards the political environment, but at the same time they will go out and have fun. It is most definitely a party record for the losers, and these tracks absolutely show it with lines “They tryna dinosaur us, so now it’s time to go up” and “Are we just too far to be as one again? Are we obsidian? Is this how it ends?” respectively.
Featuring “Feel Good Inc.” collaborator De La Soul, “Momentz” is nothing like the melancholy track from Demon Days. The shameless club banger shatters through Soul’s vocals with booming beats and pitched down vocals interrupting and screaming “Momentz.” It does capture a fun party apocalypse vibe, but only slightly does it veer off the important issue at hand and becomes a tad bit tone deaf. It’s hard to shift your mind from thinking utter rage to ‘fuck it, let’s party’ when either feeling has the possibility of canceling the other out. How can you party when the world is fucking nuts?
“We Got The Power” is by far the best representation of the concept. It brings together both sides in a positive, dance-happy, way, and also in a literal way–Albarn’s long time nemesis Noel Gallagher is featured. It’s breezy and has affectionate energy that the rest of the album could’ve reflected off more so.
It’s fine that Humanz is not as deep or thought-provoking as Albarn’s other projects. Gorillaz are fronted by cartoon characters after all. But they also probably couldn’t digest the issues that would’ve become more relevant as the year continued, since they started meditating on the outcome early on. Regardless of politics, the party scheme resulted in a purposeful hot mess made up of so-so collaborative efforts. Even the interludes were nonsensical and slightly off-kilter. But they all work well together and only together. If separated from each other, they’ll have no use to anyone anymore. However, despite Albarn’s efforts, it didn’t sound like the world became that crazy post-election. It sounds like what’s happening now, without the war of words within the tweetosphere. It was more of a prediction than something out of this world. In the end, Humanz might not gain extensive recognition as a musical achievement; but it is a great snapshot of how numb we are in our lives currently in regards to politics. GOOD.