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Humanz by Gorillaz

Steven - AV November 17, 2017

"Check our catalog!"

It’s been seven years since the last Gorillaz album, and you can tell. Their latest, Humanz, feels less like a planned release than an inevitable explosion of bottled-up creativity. Even by the virtual band’s highly collaborative standards, their return is bursting with genre shifts and varied features: Vince Staples, Mavis Staples, Noel Gallagher, Popcaan, Pusha T, Grace Jones, De La Soul. But for all the appeal this sort of unchecked artistic venting might have after a long absence, it leaves the album unfocused, overlong, and prone to tracks that play like dead air (“Carnival”). The songs don’t flow together, lacking any recognizable structure beyond an apocalyptic lyrical theme. Some could pass for outtakes, while otherwise vital album tracks (“The Apprentice”, “Out of Body”) are inexplicably exiled to the deluxe edition bonus disc. Great collaborations with Danny Brown, Pusha T, Kelela, and Kilo Kish mingle with appearances by Grace Jones and D.R.A.M. that feel more like cameos. It seems appropriate that for their first release in the Spotify age, Gorillaz have put out an album that practically begs you to cut the extraneous tracks and shuffle around what’s left, to listen to it the way many people listen to albums on a streaming service. And it’s frustrating because Gorillaz have some career-best work on here, twisting that pervasive dark, synthetic rumble into the desperation of “Let Me Out”, the pessimism of “Saturnz Barz”, the eccentricity of “Out of Body.” There are more, too. More than enough to keep Humanz from seeming like the band’s self-indulgent refusal to leave well enough alone, but it’s also not the revelation you’d hope for from a comeback. The album leaves you with the sense that Gorillaz never left, less for the quality of the songwriting here than for how muted their triumphant return is. Overall Rating: C+

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