Published Jun 29, 2018Just over a year since their apocalyptic fifth record, Humanz, Gorillaz are already back; mastermind Damon Albarn wrote The Now Now on the road during the group's North American tour last year. Co-written with longtime collaborator Remi Kabaka, and produced with James Ford, known for his work with Arctic Monkeys, the album was recorded in just a month at Albarn's Studio 13 in London.
The Now Now is far more refined than Gorillaz's previous album written on the road — 2010's The Fall. This offering finds the project engaging with America's isolationism from its first track, "Humility," onwards. The Now Now speaks to the internal while tracing a journey that passes through Kansas, Idaho, Hollywood and Miami.
This time around Albarn and company are extra selective about guests — Snoop Dogg and Jamie Principle elevate the dark, hazy groove of "Hollywood," while George Benson provides chilled-out guitar on "Humility." Much of the album is grounded by full bass lines that follow Albarn's vocal melodies, coupled with twinkling synthesizers and lush percussion — this is no iPad record. Blur bandmate Graham Coxon even makes an appearance, lending his guitar to the melancholic lilt of "Magic City."
What makes The Now Now a familiar yet expansive listen is Albarn's role at it's centre: he is less of a ringleader on this album and more of an observer — looking out at the open road, as well as inwards. "Souk Eye" is the most revealing album track: tender, romantic, and with a beat that grows slowly before string-like synths stab through its heart.
Every song doesn't have to have a storyline — the dreamy "Sorcererz" loops in on itself, as Albarn calls "Everybody hold onto your inner visions"; and "Lake Zurich" hypnotizes as a mostly instrumental disco-inflected jam. The simultaneous musical play and melancholy at the heart of Gorillaz's work is at the forefront of this record.
All in all, The Now Now feels fresh and present. Gorillaz have performed a type of sonic reset by stripping back their cast of collaborators, yet it exemplifies the strength of the songwriting at the group's core. (Parlophone)