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Gorillaz Breaks Long-Time Hiatus With “Humanz”

(05.02.2017) By Jared Martin — Gorillaz, Damon Albarn’s long running virtual band has made its return after a six year hiatus with Humanz, a collection of electropop and hip-hop songs about the apocalypse.

The appeal of Gorillaz has always been the collaborators. In the past, Albarn always blended his production seamlessly with guests as diverse as De La Soul, Bobby Womack, Lou Reed, and MF DOOM.

The guest list on Humanz is just as attractive, with appearances by rappers Vince Staples, Danny Brown, and Pusha T, along with dancehall singer Popcaan, soul singer Mavis Staples, and supermodel/disco singer Grace Jones. Unfortunately, the guests don’t mix as well this time around.

Some guests are underused, like Grace Jones on the song “Charger” where she only has a couple lines. “Broccoli” sensation D.R.A.M. appears in the song “Andromeda,” but his silky smooth vocals are buried in a busy chorus.

Other guest performances feel out of place, like the returning De La Soul on “Momentz,” which is a very fun song, but doesn’t have the laidback air of a typical De La Soul song.

Some, however, do fit in quite well. Popcaan delivers a solid performance on lead single “Saturnz Barz,” that features Damon Albarn as the band’s cartoon lead singer 2D. Pusha T drops some solid bars on “Let Me Out,” and Vince Staples opens up the album with the towering “Ascension.”

While a lot of the songs are decent, Humanz feels less like a cohesive project than previous Gorillaz releases. Originally, the cartoon band was front and center, but now it feels like it’s just tacked on because it needs to be, and some of the charm of blending real people with a fake band is gone.

Humanz is a fun album with a lot to offer for your Saturday night playlist. “Ascension,” “Saturnz Barz” and “Strobelite” are great to dance to, but unfortunately Humanz lacks the narrative or charm of Demon Days or Plastic Beach, and comes off as an album that anyone could have done, rather than a distinct “Gorillaz” project.