Albums Of The Week

Dystopian fantasy

Gorillaz are made up of four cartoon characters: (above from left) Russel Hobbs, Noodle, 2-D and Murdoc Niccals.
Gorillaz are made up of four cartoon characters: (above from left) Russel Hobbs, Noodle, 2-D and Murdoc Niccals.PHOTO: WARNER MUSIC

Humanz by Gorillaz features magnetising electronic pop inspired by United States President Donald Trump

Way before the results of the United States presidential elections came out at the end of last year, British singer and songwriter Damon Albarn asked collaborators who were working on the new Gorillaz album to write and compose music based on a "dark fantasy" in which businessman Donald Trump became president.

It turns out that the Blur frontman had quite the foresight.

Gorillaz, possibly the contemporary music world's most famous "virtual" band, the brainchild of Albarn and artist Jamie Hewlett, amp up on the list of guest musicians on their fifth album, their first after a six-year hiatus.

There is no obvious mention of Mr Trump in the album's 20 tracks (26 if you count the bonus tracks in the deluxe album) as Albarn claims he did not want to give the US President more publicity.




    Parlophone /Warner Bros

    4/5 stars

Albarn and his fellow artists are clearly not Trump fans as beneath the woozy and magnetising electronic pop of Humanz are tales of dystopia that its creators have dubbed suitable for "a party for the end of the world".

The robotic waltz of Hallelujah Money features an engaging narration by English poet/composer/ musician Benjamin Clementine outlining a fantasy world with "walls like unicorns" and where "whole beasts of nations desire power".

Propelled by a sinister bounce, Let Me Out features rapper Pusha T, gospel singer and civil rights activist Mavis Staples and Albarn (in the guise of cartoon character 2-D) lamenting the "shift in times".

Officially, the band comprise the same four cartoon characters, 2-D, Murdoc Niccals, Russel Hobbs and Noodle, drawn and animated by Hewlett.

Musically, it is the work of principal songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Albarn, producers The Twilite Tone and Remi Kabaka Jr as well as an eclectic posse of guests that range from hip-hop veterans De La Soul and Jamaican DJ and singer/songwriter Popcaan to model/disco diva Grace Jones and Ethiopian-American singer Kelela.

It is not all doom and gloom though, as amid all the tales of cynicism lie uplifting tunes.

We Got The Power, a party anthem featuring guest vocals from not only Jehnny Beth from post-punkers Savages, but also Albarn's one-time Britpop nemesis Noel Gallagher, is an inspiring call to arms.

"We got the power to be loving each other/No matter what happens, we've got the power to do that," they sing encouragingly on what is surely one of the album's high points.

No matter how dark the present and future might seem, hope lives on.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 03, 2017, with the headline 'Dystopian fantasy'. Print Edition | Subscribe