The Now Now Album Review
By EJ Jolly
“Behind is the past, and this is the Now Now, not the Then Then.”
So said 2-D, Gorillaz’ virtual frontman, in a recent interview with Uproxx. One of the most influential (virtual) bands of the 2000s, it seems Gorillaz is here to stay. After a seven-year hiatus, the band has released two full-length studio albums in just two years. Released back in June, The Now Now feels strange yet familiar; not quite the unique Gorillaz sound we know and love, but not something unrecognizable either. Five singles were released every week in anticipation of the album, an amazing way to stay relevant within the music streaming algorithms and a great gift to fans. The Now Now takes the criticism many had with the last album to heart: with simple tracks and vocals almost exclusively from co-creator Damon Albarn, it is a lowkey affair.
The record opens with “Humility,” an upbeat summer bop featuring the sweet guitar licks of the legendary George Benson. But something isn’t quite right here; ‘isolation’ betrays the song’s happy-go-lucky tone, and the vocals sound just weird enough to have you asking if this is really how things are supposed to be.
This strange style of pop is deliberate, and we quickly find that it was all a red-herring: from here on out, The Now Now isn’t afraid to dive headfirst into its synthesized strangeness.
Distorted vocals slide underneath infectious beats in tracks like “Tranz” and “Lake Zurich,” but stand right beside the self-reflective folk gem that is “Idaho.” This album also marks the third collaboration between Snoop Dogg and Gorillaz: alongside Jamie Principle, “Hollywood” is a fun diss at the wild nature of celebrity glitz and glamor.
It’s easy to recognize the spirit of their prior album The Fall (2010): the heavy use of synthesizers, a lack of featured artists, songs named after states and locations, and the self-reflective nature of the album to name a few. But eight years in-between has done Albarn and his songwriting well, and The Now Now feels like a natural evolution in Gorillaz’ discography.
There’s something strangely human about this album, after you peel back the synthesizers and the question of why their virtual bassist is currently in virtual jail. Fear and insecurity define the record’s climax “Fire Flies:” ‘I got drunk, I’m sorry / Am I losing you?’ leads the way for the somber ending track “Souk Eye.” Albarn has never shied away from commenting on social or political issues in any of his projects, but there is something unique about the raw emotion in these tracks. Maybe the line has finally blurred between the world of the band and the world of Albarn. Or maybe, somewhere in the middle of what honestly sounds like a mess on paper, the ‘Gorillaz’ have just changed.
But somehow, The Now Now stills feels like coming home.