Track by Track: The Now Now, by Gorillaz

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And this is what my album retrospective was leading into! The Now Now surprised me when it came out when it probably shouldn’t have. Look at Gorillaz release pattern. One major album, and then a second one. We’ve had B Side compilations, and we have had albums recorded in the space of just over a month on tour. Now…we have an album. How does it sound?

I think what I love is the in-universe context of this album. Murdoc, Bassist and de facto leader of the group, was arrested. The band, therefore, recruited a new bassist to fill in. They got, of all people (and this is canon) Ace from the Gangreen Gang off the hit cartoon series Powerpuff Girls. Musically, this album is different from Humanz in a few ways. Fewer songs, making it a much easier task to review, and fewer collaborators. Only 2 songs have major collaborations, and only one has guest singers.

 

TRACK ONE- Humility

Humility was the first song that was released in anticipation for this album, with a proper music video, featuring Jack Black, and some of the greatest closeups of 2D’s bubble butt. Calm down, ladies. I really like this song, as it is such a refreshing sound compared to the presient negativity found in Humanz. Humility is a new summer anthem, with a decidedly retro sound, helped by the delightful guitar licks of veteran guitarist George Benson. It is a really strong opener and sets the mood of the album rather well.

TRACK TWO- Tranz

Tranz is a nice, short piece, with its droning synth bass, creating a consistent and straightforward piece of alternative dance which is a good in-between song, in my opinion. There really isn’t much to say about Tranz, as it does what it does, and quickly wraps itself up. It’s a nice enough album track.

TRACK THREE- Hollywood

Our second big collaboration, this time featuring Jamie Principle, and the returning Snoop Dogg. Last time Snoop featured on a Gorillaz album was in 2010’s Plastic Beach. He only appears for a short rap break during the middle 8, but it is neat that he is here. Due to the way this album was made, there are only two collaborations on this album, and Hollywood is the second of the two.

Compared to the tracks on Humanz, this is solid. I complained in my last post about the lack of Gorillaz on the last album, though in this track, the collaborator serves Gorillaz, not the other way around. This is a great song to hear performed live, which is how I initially heard this song. The song itself is seemingly your typical indictment of the culture of Hollywood but actually isn’t. If anything, its quite ambiguous over its opinion on Hollywood, and personifies the area as a flawed, but not evil influence.

TRACK FOUR- Kansas

Kansas, for me, is one of the standout songs on this album. And many fans agree that this is one of the stronger songs on the album, that stands out. For me, I love that heavy bass riff that plays through the song, which gives it a sound that is so Gorillaz, sounding like a love child of Plastic Beach and Demon Days. The song itself is actually an interesting love song, about trying to move past a lover when your feelings are still there for someone. The song title Kansas, therefore, could be considered a reference to The Wizard of Oz, with Dorothy returning home, or yearning for something that she, and the singer, cannot reach. I really love this song.

TRACK FIVE- Sorcererz

I’d like to briefly make a side note about the song titles. What is with the Z? Humanz? Tranz? Sorcererz? What’s with that, is the letter Z just so cool. The letter X is cooler, but now I am getting off track. The lyrical composition of this song actually provides an insightful take on opinions and the sharing of opinions. While we are all entitled to opinions, perhaps we should sometimes keep them to ourselves, agree to disagree with people, and move on. Its good commentary is what I am saying. It is something people can learn from…maybe even me.

TRACK SIX- Idaho

This song is decidedly psychedelic to listen to. Something which may not come to mind when one thinks of the state of Idaho, but there is a chilling, laid-back quality to this song, that makes it a great piece of music to listen to in the evening to relax to. This spacey, folk piece has smatterings of The Fall in there, which I really like. The idea of passing through an area of beauty, but not stopping to take it in really adds to the space-age folk music that serenades me through this music.

TRACK SEVEN- Lake Zurich

This is a largely instrumental piece, which while having some spoken pieces within it, including voice samples, and a spoken-word piece about the importance of sharing ideas, regardless of how they are received. This is actually a good comparison piece to Sorcererz, and the song itself could be considered an editorial commenting on the last album. I originally didn’t like this piece, but after doing my research, there is more to it than just being largely instrumental. I still wouldn’t call it my favourite song on the album, however.

TRACK EIGHT- Magic City

This song sounds somewhat similar to Kansas musically but is its own unique piece as well, differentiated by its lyrical content. Its instrumentation is just wonderful to listen. It is one of my favourites on this album, and I think that is because it speaks to me and how I feel sometimes. The concept that you get lost in your own self-importance, and how your actions can lead to negative consequences for you and can go much deeper.

TRACK NINE- Fireflies

Fireflies is a good companion piece to Kansas, containing a lot of the same thematic elements, and the droning bass riff, though not nearly as prevalent as in the former track. The need for security that a relationship provides is visualised as the fireflies in the song, and the idea that you are chasing fireflies, chasing for a fleeting comfort in something or someone is very deep.

TRACK TEN- One Percent

Another short piece, a palette cleanser of sorts. Serving as a short break between two major songs, and I really like this one, compared to Tranz. Nothing much to say about this one, except it is a nice little song, which once again does its job. The vibe I get from this song is that it is about the communication of ideas, and the monopoly that small groups of people and organisations have, not from a news perspective, but from celebrities. Is it a comment on Trump? I don’t know, but I think it can be construed as something to that end, but I also think it is a character piece, a microcosm of this album as a whole.

TRACK ELEVEN- Souk Eye

This track turned out to be another one of my favourites, mostly because of it being much more acoustic song, a folksy lullaby. The song itself could be interpreted in one of two ways. I go with the idea of it being about bassist Murdoc, absent as a character on this album, with 2D perhaps feeling guilty about continuing without him. When you consider the relationship the two have in-universe, there is a Stockholm syndrome case in there somewhere. You could alternatively interpret the song as being about romantic love as well, which is prevalent in Kansas and Fireflies, but I don’t think that is what this song is going for. I believe it is trying to be ambiguous, and having innuendo. I don’t know, all I know is it is a good song.

The Now Now: CONCLUSIONS

What can I say about The Now Now? I like it. If you read my last track by track, you know my opinions on the previous album. This album, however, contains a lot of the same elements. The interludes? Replaced with a couple of short, sub 3 minute songs to break some bits of it up. Politics? There is some light commentary on it, not much, but some. They even have the same producer, but why does this work better? Consistency. The Now Now was a more consistent album. Compared to the 20 track Humanz, with so many voices, this is about a Human. 2D. It is a character piece. It takes some of the stronger elements of the last two albums, The Fall, and Humanz, and creates something which sounds super consistent.

The quick turnaround for The Now Now, coupled with the idea of travelling, and internal monologues on love and the human condition, does make this album so good. The spaced out, the echoey sound is hit and miss, however. Some of the songs fall flat on their studio version, compared to the live performance. I think the instrumentation needs to be less keyboard-centric, as that is what made the first three albums such great ones, more instrumental balance. Otherwise, it is a strong album, and one I’ll be listening to a few times.

More from If you ask Ben

Tracklist: Gorillaz

Humanz: Reconstructed

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Ben

Since 2012, Benjamin Attwood has written for the If you Ask Ben blog.

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