When Gorillaz released Humanz in 2017, many fans were excited for new music from the illustrated project of Damon Albarn from Blur. However, many fans were left disappointed mainly due to the lack of Albarn on the actual album.
Humanz was a bloated, underwhelming release over-filled with guest vocals and little originality. Whilst featuring other artists is a common feature of many Gorillaz songs, the album was so overfilled with guest appearances that the album felt more like a DJ Khaled style release than an Albarn project.
The Now Now, released the following year was a step in the right direction, but still felt lacking in quality compared to earlier albums such as Plastic Beach or Demon Days. Thankfully, this is not the case with 2020’s Song Machine.
This album strikes the perfect balance between great guest appearances and star turns by Albarn himself. The encapsulation of this is found in the album’s closer, Momentary Bliss featuring British punk Act Slaves, and the rapper from the same country, Slowthai.
A 4-minute ode to positivity and attacking those who “don’t feel happy in your skin”. Although the track’s main strengths are the driving guitars in the chorus under Slowthai’s spikey delivery, the lyrics also provide an interesting insight into self-confidence and belief.
Another highlight from the album is Aries. A more traditional sounding jam from the band, the song could easily have been any of their proceeding albums.
A bassline resembling something The Cure might’ve released 30 years ago that grows as the song goes on, washes under the delivery from Albarn that sounds like many Blur songs we’ve heard before.
Other highlights from the album include star guest appearances from St. Vincent and Beck. Unlike other albums, these guest appearances are used efferently and don’t overstay their welcome.
Although most tracks still don’t reach the career highs of songs like Melancholy Hill or Feel Good Inc., Song Machine delivers a great Gorillaz album in 2020. Considering the length of time that Albarn’s been active in the music industry, that’s another achievement in and of itself.
Image Credit: In Mente