At this point, Gorillaz have pretty much always established themselves as doing whatever comes into their collective cartoon consciousness. The duo of musician Damon Albarn and graphic designer Jamie Hewlett (along with a rotating cast of touring musicians) have been at it for almost two decades now with their eclectic mix of electro-funk-hop-reggae-wave, to say the least. Safe to say, to try and classify Gorillaz is almost impossible; from the group’s rap-infused/alternative rock early days on their self-titled album and Demon Days, to the more electronic styles of Plastic Beach and The Fall, to the full-blown trip-hop soul madness of Humanz, it’s easier to say what Gorillaz hasn’t done.
As someone who never got too deep into this band’s discography, I can relate to people who might be wary hopping into this group. At the same time, it was encouraging to hear Damon Albarn’s comments about him learning from the criticisms of Humanz and trying to make a more streamlined effort this time around.
So what did we get with The Now Now? Is it another Gorillaz hit or is it too much of a departure from the group known for stylistic departures? I’ll say this: if in hindsight ten years from now, there’s a debate to be had between this or Humanz as the better album, count me on the side of The Now Now. I had a great time with this record, one that takes the weird, out-there tendencies the group are so well-known for and drenches it in a smooth and chill veneer.
The Now Now is a project that, while a bit on the homogenous side, is a consistently solid, fascinating listen with soulful compositions that don’t overstay their welcome. It will be fascinating to see how diehard fans take an album like this that is, once again, a drastic shift for the group. Even though, if any group would be alright with changing a band’s style, it should be Gorillaz fans. Still, I think The Now Now is worth a listen, both as an addition to the Gorillaz catalogue and as a smooth summer chill-out album with its own weird flavor.