Back in 2001, Damon Albarn was a pretty big deal. The songwriter and singer of Britpop sensation Blur, Albarn was the Gallagher brothers’ more pretentious cousin, even if his most famous bit of writing, “Song 2”, was originally intended to be a joke, poking fun at American grunge music. He was revered in Britain, but little more than an afterthought in the States. Britpop hadn’t fully crossed over to America, and so it seemed Albarn would be forever left in British consciousness.
Then, on March 5, “Clint Eastwood” was released. With its jerky beat and faux-evil feel, “Clint Eastwood” was the world’s flashy introduction to Gorillaz, the Albarn side project which has long since eclipsed his own fame. And with Gorillaz, Albarn entered a new tier of respect in the music world: he went from solid pop singer to artistic master. As the popularity of Gorillaz continued to soar, Albarn seemed to get increasingly experimental, daring: he heavily used electronics, featured old-school rappers like De La Soul, and took the cartoon band to new heights that Blur, for all its British popularity, could never achieve.
Just a few days ago, on March 23rd, this trend continued even further. In anticipation of the first Gorillaz album since 2011’s The Fall, titled Humanz, Gorillaz released four new tracks, all original and all very odd. “Saturnz Barz”, the flashiest of the new singles, was accompanied by a 360 degree music video and features Jamaican singer Popcaan heavily, recalls “Clint Eastwood” with its slow, drum-heavy groove. “Ascension”, featuring Vince Staples, is an incredibly fun and short romp, with Vince absolutely killing it throughout the track. “We Got the Power”, featuring Savages singer Jehnny Beth and, amusingly, Noel Gallagher, is a little cheesy in its universal “All you need is love” message, but Beth’s quavering vocals rescue the track from itself. Finally, “Andromeda” features American rapper D.R.A.M. and goes for a more relaxed, bass-heavy feel that contrasts nicely from the other tracks. They may not all be Albarn & Co.’s finest work, but they are all certainly worth a listen.
Hear the new tracks here:
Humanz is out on Parlophone on April 28th.