On Gorillaz’ last full length ‘Humanz’, Damon Albarn asked the album’s huge cast of star-studded collaborators to imagine a future in which Donald Trump wins the 2016 US presidential election. The result, which turned out to be an eerie foresight into what was to come, sounded like some sort of apocalyptic party, each guest artist bringing such a variety of ideas and musical styles that the result sounded, at times, more like a playlist than an album of cohesive ideas.
With so many ideas running through ‘Humanz’, there were times when the album felt jarring, but on ‘The Now Now’, which comes just a little over a year after its predecessor, it feels easy to just sit back and listen. Gone is all the alluding to a dystopian present, packaged as a soundtrack to the party at the end of the world and in its space is a sense of calmness that almost borders on indifference.
‘Humanz’ featured an array of famous collaborators on almost every track, but there are just two this time around - album opener ‘Humility’ features legendary soul and jazz artist George Benson on guitar, whereas on ‘Hollywood’ Chicago house pioneer Jamie Principle acts as co-writer and vocalist while Snoop Dogg returns to sweep up the song’s verses.
Elsewhere, everything is a little calmer. ‘Idaho’ is a spacey ballad that borrows from psychedelia, Damon crooning a tale of assimilating with nature (sample lyric: “Floated out into the woods to hear the old elk call / Touched the rainbow with my hands on dry I got them all”). The similarly paced ‘Sorcererz’ warns “everybody [to] cool down, everybody lie down” and chill out, whereas in the mostly instrumental ‘Lake Zurich’ the sounds of sirens and voices fade in and out of the track’s funky basslines and spiky percussion, seemingly unperturbed by the chaos unravelling around it.
If ‘Humanz’ was a reaction about a world that seemed to be heading to hell, then ‘The Now Now’ is a more spaced-out affair, stripped of its star-studded collaborations and bathed in the apparent apathy of the modern age.