Pioneers of pushing musical boundaries, the world's greatest (virtual) band Gorillaz are still doing exactly that two decades into their career, more so than ever with their new album 'Song Machine, Season One: Strange Timez'.
The new record was created with the idea that this wouldn't really be an album, but instead a series of episodes (with their own video and podcast) made as and when mastermind Damon Albarn felt like it. The result of approaching their craft in this way has resulted in a body of work where each part feels uniquely its own, but when viewed as a whole makes perfect sense - like Black Mirror translated through the medium of song.
'Strange Timez' featuring Robert Smith is first up on Song Machine, and the familiarity of Smith's voice is a welcome comfort, especially given that he's singing about the weird lives we're all living now. He feels omnipresent on the pandemic dancefloor conundrum, and it's oddly comforting.
'The Valley of The Pagans' featuring Beck follows as a mythical synth-wave meets funk rock vocoder bop, while other stellar collaborations include St Vincent for the twee synth-pop charmer 'Chalk Tablet Towers', contrasting with the bizarre theatrical slow jam of 'The Pink Phantom' featuring Elton John and 6LACK, and static-y punk of Jekyll and Hyde' Momentary Bliss' featuring slowthai and Slaves.
Gorillaz's first instalment of 'Song Machine' is to be applauded, as each song is its own vital and unique source. Albarn's last collaboration heavy effort as the project was 2017's 'Humanz', and while that record was close to flawless; it's considerably homogeneous when compared to the sheer sonic vastness of 'Song Machine'. The record branches out into any and every territory - the gorgeous 'With Love to An Ex' featuring South African artist Moonchild Sanelly is the audacious lovechild of darkwave and hip-hop, a sensual groove that encapsulates the mood of the record. Even when looking at the album credits on paper, they sound like they shouldn't work, but they do (here's looking at you 'MLS' featuring JPEGMAFIA and CHAI). Through the Song Machine, Gorillaz prove more so than ever before that in their world, they can do just about anything.