Gorillaz – The Now Now

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The sixth Gorillaz album is perfectly pleasant, but is that enough?

There are plenty of nice moments on Gorillaz’s sixth album, The Now Now. In fact, there aren’t really any bad ones. But while it won’t upset fans of Damon Albarn’s virtual band, it’s not exactly going to fill you with the same giddy excitement the band’s earliest material provoked.

 

This brings us to the always difficult question; at what point do we allow the expectations we have of an artist to get in the way of enjoying their perfectly passable work?

Is it unreasonable to expect something extraordinary from a group, album after album? Just because they broke significant creative ground in the past, must we expect them to be completely ground-breaking time after time? Or is it completely reasonable to hold an artist to the lofty standard they have set for themselves?

If this were a bad record, then it’d be so much easier. We could just sound off about how Albarn has finally cooked it after all these years. But The Now Now is not even remotely a bad record.

If this were a record by a new band, we’d probably be pretty excited by it. The slinky ‘Sorcererz’ is part g-funk, part modern soul, ‘Lake Zurich’ is a fun slice of instrumental disco pop and the deep plod of ‘Fire Flies’ is well-paced and kinda mesmerising.

But the lack of special guests is a little disappointing, as it’s the cast of thousands that have added such an intriguing flavour to the group’s songs in the past.

And the guest spots that did make the cut – George Benson’s crispy jazz guitar in ‘Humility’ and Snoop Dogg’s laid-back but devastating verse in ‘Hollywood’ – are prime highlights of The Now Now. Touches that drag it away from being a Damon Albarn vanity project and give it the communal feel that made early Gorillaz so much fun.

 

Look, it’s been a big few years for Albarn. The return of Gorillaz last year came hot on the heels of a huge flurry of activity from his beloved Blur, which included a new album and world tour. He also released his first solo record – he’s been busy. Which makes us wonder whether we really needed a new Gorillaz record so soon after the last one, or whether these songs would have worked better under his own name.

It feels mean-spirited to give such a backhanded response to a record like The Now Now, which – I’ll reiterate – is truly not a bad record. But we only hold artists like Gorillaz to such high standards because we know what they’re capable of. And we can’t help it if sometimes we’re just expecting more.

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