Perhaps the scariest thing about Damon Albarn’s nightmarish cartoon side project, is that it’s been almost two decades since the sinister bounce of “Clint Eastwood” introduced to the world to his motley band of two-dimensional misfits.
Along with graphic artist Jamie Hewlett of Tank Girl fame, the Blur front man had created a wonderful, satirical monster that could go places his regular band mates couldn’t. What looked like a train wreck on paper (De La Soul + Super Furry Animals?!) turned out more often than not to be a musical triumph (Sean Ryder’s disembodied vocals on “DARE” were particularly inspired). The highest point was 2005’s Demon Days – an album of doomsday prog hip-hop that got mentioned in the same breath as Dark Side of the Moon and Pet Sounds. It even had Dennis Hopper on it.
2010 follow-up Plastic Beach still had its moments, but with Humanz, the spell seems to have finally been broken, and despite its best efforts the album is about as interesting as a bucket of soil. It all looks promising: we’ve got a stellar cast of supporting characters, and the confidence of a musician (Albarn) who has a knack of turning whatever he touches into gold. However, this time around it just doesn’t add up, veering from the forgettable (“Saturnz Barz”, “Momentz”) to the occasionally unlistenable (“Halfway to the Halfway House” and the truly awful “Hallelujah Money”). Grace Jones makes a welcome appearance, chuckling like Papa Shango on the grinding “Charger”, while “Andromeda” bubbles along nicely, but still, something feels like it’s missing.
Part of the trouble is the bloated track listing; even on the standard release there are twenty songs. On the deluxe edition there’s a completely ridiculous six more – most of which are underwhelming experimental fodder that should have been left on the cutting room floor. The main issue though, is that most of Humanz was conceptualized on Albarn’s iPad – a move which has arguably resulted in a hollow sounding album that puts style over soul.
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Gorillaz : Humanz