It’s difficult to believe that twenty years ago, Gorillaz, “the world’s first virtual band” was born. The success of this brainchild of Damon Albarn and comic illustrator Jamie Hewlett lies in connecting “with fans by giving interactive tours of their fictional studio on their website, while their off-the-wall music videos gradually developed into an immensely complex and strange story of a band unbound by reality.” Gorillaz seldom release albums within a short space of time of each other, so fans were shocked (and excited), that just one year later, following the 2017 release of Humanz, Gorillaz had dropped The Now Now.
When Gorillaz drop a new album, it is more than just the premiering of new tracks and promotional videos; they are also dropping the latest updates and occurrences of a soap opera. When 2010’s Plastic Beach was released, one of the many developments in the virtual band was Murdoc Niccals kidnapping 2D and replacing Russel with a drum machine and Noodle with a cyborg he built from DNA recovered from a crash site. On The Now Now, the Gorillaz sixth album, Murdoc “has been incarcerated” and “temporarily replaced by Ace”.
This eleven track LP opens with Humility. Comparisons with Damon Albarn’s Everyday Robots can be detected here. Humility is accompanied by a hilarious video thanks to a little help from Jack Black. The majority of the first half of the album has similar chilled electronic beats such as Sorcererz, which has already been dropped online as well as Hollywood, featuring impressive and welcomed contributions from Snoop Dogg and Jamie Principle.
Idaho, the track halfway across the LP is where Gorillaz take a creative change in direction. It has a beautiful mellow southern country feel which has been seen on Blur’s Country Sad Ballad Man and Caravan. The difference with Idaho is the very subtle Gorillaz electronic signature synth sounds running parallel alongside the country riffs. Lake Zurich follows, probably one of the most upbeat tracks on The Now Now. Lake Zurich impresses with Justin Timberlake FutureSex/LoveSounds beats in a productive coalition with Bruno Mars, which is further enhanced from the bells from Backstreet Boys, Backstreet’s Back.
Faint trumpets and strings with pianos and electronic keys flow with a pleasant mysteriousness in Magic City, it’s not like Blur’s Magic America, but there is a feeling of magic being whipped into the mix. Fire Flies follows, drawing indirect influences from Bjork’s Utopia LP. One Percent has synth strings almost identical to those in INXS’s Never Tear Us Apart. The Now Now concludes with Souk Eye, possibly one of the strongest tracks which permeate the listener with melancholy sadness, excavating and unleashing emotions one would not normally expect from a Gorillaz track. This track develops with 1970’s haunting disco strings and the xylophone, which is the last instrument still being played as the curtain call comes down for The Now Now.
The combination of animation and fiction have allowed Gorillaz over the past two decades to evolve in a unique way few other bands (including Blur) wouldn’t have been able to. There is still demand for more seasons to be made in the animated soap opera known to the world as Gorillaz.