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Record review: Gorillaz, The Now Now

Review

Gorillaz, The Now Now

(Parlophone) ★★✩✩✩

GORILLAZ are accustomed to criticisms of style over substance after 20 years as the world’s only ‘virtual band’ — a conceit that seemed a lot edgier and more futuristic in 1998 than in 2018. While it isn’t a fair cop to call their music surface deep, their sixth album does feel shallowly lacking in artistic imperative.

Damon Albarn — he of the corporeal songwriting and performances behind artist Jamie Hewlett’s animations — admits that The Now Now has been created and released relatively spontaneously, in the midst of a touring cycle, in large part to give Gorillaz new songs to play at festivals this summer.

As a result, there are fewer guest stars than usual involved. ‘It’s pretty much just me singing,’ Albarn admits, with what might as well be a shrug.

Damon days: Albarn, the human face of Gorillaz, on tour this month PIC: ROBERT MARQUARDT

Smooth 1970s soul singer George Benson’s silky jazz guitar licks bed in slickly on otherwise unremarkable breezy electro-funk opener Humility.

Snoop Dogg reprises his similarly inconsequential cameo on 2010’s Plastic Beach by rapping over a house-y beat about nice things like ‘bad bitches I been achin’ to break.’

With its wonky, weird out-of-tune guitars, Idaho is a moment of queasy, almost lo-fi serenity, spent peering out from the tour bus window at the ‘beauty on the road’.

Best song Lake Zurich is a danceable cowbell-bashing synths’n’sequencers workout that will help enliven live shows. Like all the best bits on this unashamedly superficial record, they’re swiped past casually without ever being developed into anything that leaves a lasting impression.