"The Now Now" by Gorillaz: songs so far
Set to be released on June 29th, The Now Now is the British virtual band Gorillaz' latest album.
Headed up by Blur's Damon Albarn, the band has achieved success with hits such as Clint Eastwood, Feel Good Inc. and DARE. The Now Now promises a summertime, funky spin on the band's typical dark pop vibe, and features more of Damon Albarn's singing — a fact that puts the album in contrast with Humanz, an album flooded with collaborations.
So far, they've released five tracks: Humility, Lake Zurich, Sorcererz, Fire Flies and Hollywood.
"Callin' the world from isolation", begins Humility, The Now Now's lead single. In many ways, this lyric sets the tone for the track. It acts as a meta-comment on the singer's relationship with the audience, references Brexit, and establishes 2D's personality for the record. The song continues in much the same vein. Gorillaz' oeuvre is typically postmodern and political, and based on this song, The Now Now sets out to be much the same.
Musically, Humility is a jazz/folk influenced track. George Benson's legendary guitar skills meet Albarn's typical melancholic vocals. The result is a chill track that invites fans and newcomers alike. In addition, the video is a mix of animation and video common to the band. As a living cartoon, Jack Black feels in place in Gorillaz, while the animation quality is excellent. The combination of the superb mixing and smoothness is immersive, especially with good headphones.
It all comes together to create a catchy earworm — one that is very likeable but ultimately lacks an emotional punch.
High Point: When the chorus and the bridge overlap toward the end of the track.
As soon as Lake Zurich begins, it throws you into a hypnotic world. Sirens blur with synths as the melody is joined by the video-gamey sounds and melancholic vocals that are so defining of the "Gorillaz Noise". The visualiser is very Gorillaz too, with it's retro, hypnotic nature. The members of Gorillaz spin in the centre, with 2D echoing Tetsuo and Ace replacing Murdoc. Even despite the exciting start, the typical darkness presses at the song. The distorted chanting sounds like "save us from", which recalls this post on the artist's Instagram:
In its few lyrics, Lake Zurich describes the anxiety behind The Now Now. They have the oddly drowned-out quality of 2D's verse in Out of Body, being a small part of the polyphonic melody of Gorillaz songs.
This plays to the song's strengths. The interpretive elements of the song are available but don't interfere with its musicality, letting it remain a track to vibe to rather than to dwell upon.
High Point: The chattering synths over the chanting in the climax.
Sorcererz infuses funky synths and a warm keyboard melody with Albarn's drained lyricism. It plays at a more relaxed pace than much of their other fare, and the repetitive nature of the song serves to make it catchier than it otherwise would be. It was unique upon creation among Gorillaz songs in showing its lyrics, a welcome change as Albarn's singing can sometimes be unclear (Rhinestone Eyes' verse, anyone?). The visualiser is also deeply trippy if focused upon. Lyrically, the song seems a commentary on our post-truth world with the title acting as a reference to the creation of our world by others.
The song is ultimately fleeting. The summery quality of the song seems at odds with the vocals, and the song isn't catchy enough to justify its lyrics. Like Humility, the song is fun but soon forgotten.
High Point: The outro, with Albarn's vocals and the funky instrumentation combining.
(No, not that one.)
Fire Flies shows off Albarn's melancholic vocals, coupled with lyrics that deserve their own essay. The bass wraps around the words, whilst far-away musical glittering echoes the titular fireflies. The song is filled with pathos, as a broken 2D tell us that "I follow a firefly | it takes me | into the night". Lyrically, it seems to be a discussion on losing the self as a result of an obsession, the dissonance and collapse of language at the end recalling Every Planet We Reach Is Dead.
The track recalls much of Gorillaz' early work. Thematically similar to Latin Simone and Tomorrow Comes Today, the track uses much of the minimalism of their first album. It also has the horror elements and emotional immediacy of much of their early oeuvre, while lacking the muting electronica of tracks such as El Manana. Instrumentally, the track displays the lyrical conflict between the "fireflies" and the "night", whilst the dissonance leaves considerably eerie moments in the track.
The song sits somewhat at odds with the rest of The Now Now so far, however. The song is a trip into darkness whilst the remainder of the album exists in the light. Despite this, the lyrical complexity and beauty have already made it a favourite.
High Point: The iambic lyrics of the bridge.
Hollywood is the latest of the released tracks. An old-school house-inspired track, it features Jamie Principle, who pioneered the genre, and Snoop Dogg. It offers three different perspectives on celebrity, somewhat like Stylo, and seems to be a villain song, like Sweepstakes or Superfast Jellyfish. In it, Jamie takes the role of someone succoured by celebrity, 2D offers a negative view of it, whilst Snoop expresses a view from the position of celebrity.
Lyrically, the song is accomplished. 2D's statement that "Hollywood is alright" subverts traditional hip-hop songs that boast of the trappings of fame. It is also wonderfully genuine; Damon Albarn has experienced fame at both it's best and worst as attested to in The Swagga. His chorus explains how the celebrity status that has become the American Dream isn't anything special, whilst the thirst for status is destructive. Jamie, on the other hand, is starting to lose himself chasing fame. "She knows how to ride me", he says, a callback to Charger that represents being brainwashed and possessed by celebrity. He personifies Hollywood as a woman, schizophrenically signifying his growing infatuation. Finally, Snoop advertises the trappings of celebrity; sex, drugs, and most importantly jealousy.
The song suggests that it is inevitable that the jealousy persists, and no amount of fame will allow an escape from it. However, it's difficult to laud the instrumentation. This is perhaps the point, an emptiness in the music to match that of celebrity, but it seems the song is left slightly empty as a result. Similarly hollow is Principle's opening, but it isn't enough to ruin the track.