- 23 Oct 20
Damon Albarn’s cartoon crew return with star-studded seventh album.
While Damon Albarn has shied away from wildly ambitious projects, his latest outing with his beloved virtual band is gargantuan in scope even by his standards. After a minimalist venture with The Now Now, Gorillaz have once again enlisted a starry cast on Song Machine, Season One: Strange Timez – with appearances from Elton John, Robert Smith, Peter Hook, Beck, Schoolboy Q, Joan As Police Woman, Skepta, Slowthai, and Tony Allen, among others.
The new album isn’t totally breaking the Gorillaz mould, but it’s certainly expanding it. Elton John and 6lack on ‘The Pink Phantom’, for instance, is a collaboration that only Albarn’s mind could have cooked up. The shift between the American hip-hop artist’s introspective, autotuned vocals and Elton’s theatrical delivery teeters on the edge of what shouldn’t work – but somehow emerges triumphant. Another highlight is ‘Momentary Bliss’ – an unapologetically fun, but simultaneously boundary-pushing, blur of punk, hip-hop and synth-pop, featuring Slowthai and Slaves.
Despite its high-energy approach, the project’s pacing works best as it was originally released – in episodes, rather than as one focused collection. And although the album was partially recorded over lockdown, even Albarn can’t offer much insight beyond “Strange times to be alive” – the understatement of the year.