With unusual rapidity, Gorillaz have delivered a follow up to 2017’s ‘Humanz’. Predominantly vocalized by Damon Albarn as ‘2D’, the album calls back to the very first Gorillaz album, 2001’s ‘Gorillaz’. With only a couple of vocal features, ‘The Now Now’ circumvents over 15 years of highly collaborative Gorillaz projects.
In recent years (Particularly for ‘Humanz’) Gorillaz have been plagued with criticism in every conceivable comment section that the original ‘sound’ is gone, that there are too many features, that the material should be Damon’s solo work, or that nothing will ever touch the first two albums. The key difference separating the first two albums from the rest is that they were made with a consistent set of collaborators across the project, while more recent albums (‘Plastic Beach’ onwards) were focused more individually on each song with seemingly as many contributors as could fit. This is how ‘The Now Now’ sets itself apart, with so little external input in terms of vocals, and such a consistent sound in terms of production, it sounds more at place near the earliest work, but also minimal to the point of resembling 2010’s ‘The Fall’, which was made exclusively on tour using Damon’s iPad.
While I agree it doesn’t touch ‘Demon Days’, it is a welcome change from the often too busy ‘Plastic Beach’ or ‘Humanz’, both of which are so polarizing with many high and low points that listening to the whole albums can be a chore. ‘The Now Now’ holds a very consistent groove throughout, self-contained and unobtrusive, it can make background music equally well as it could soundtrack a low-key party. While starting out strong, it does fizzle out into little more than ambiance nearer the end; though each song still has something to contribute. One of only three vocal features, Snoop Dogg provides a smooth verse that fits in perfectly to ‘Hollywood’, a real highlight of the album. The album winds back up just a little for the finish, the charming ‘Souk Eye’ is tinged with a little disco, a sound that works perfectly to create a song that will sit alongside some of Gorillaz’ greatest.
Gorillaz’ will never have a ‘sound’, no release is less valid than another; there has never been one defining point that provided the cornerstone of who the band was, and yet all of their work is instantly recognizable. The constant progression has sometimes put certain albums further ahead of the game than others, and we can always play favorites; but with Damon being the only continuous musically contributing member of the group, the project has always been about collaboration, and by 2018 the discography has expanded into an incredible mixture. ‘The Now Now’ is not as significant as some other albums, but it is a great answer to several questions raised by less recent releases.