Gorillaz has never been known to stick to tradition, and their newest collection is simply their most recent venture into wild.
The virtual band released “Song Machine, Season One: Strange Timez” on October 23, but many of the songs are already familiar. Gorillaz already released many of the tracks in the form of animated videos with skits between each to create a storyline, but dropped the other half of the music with the album. The pre-released songs, called skits, were an attempt by the band to break out of the traditional mold.
It’s surprising, then, that they opted to release the album in traditional form on streaming platforms, but even the music itself is something new. All 17 tracks include at least one feature from artists of every genre. It’s clear that the music industry is moving towards a genreless future (hello, “Old Town Road”) but some of the combinations are still surprising.
Elton John and 6lack surprising.
The title track sets the tone for the album. It’s a dreamy, electronic experience that pulls The Cure’s Robert Smith in and out and lets his voice shine. It’s distinctly Gorillaz, but there’s no shortage of outside influence. The same theme continues throughout— each song is true to the band but built to support the feature.
Highlights are hard to choose because each song is such an individual experience, but “The Pink Phantom” is a definite standout once you tackle the mental hurdle that is 6lack and Elton John together. The backing track somehow fits both 6lack’s autotuned riffs and Elton John’s distinctive voice and combines them into a ballad that just feels like you’re floating.
“Momentary Bliss” with slowthai and Slaves is also a personal favorite. It’s a deeply British bop that falls quickly into ska territory. The vocals could handle a harder beat but the punk backing instantly makes it fun and the sparks of Gorillaz’s influence pull the track back from the 90’s.
Gorillaz has been around for so long for a reason— their two decade career is no accident. They’re constantly evolving with the times and pulling influence from artists, but they still maintain their core. Their episode concept might not be for the casual listener, but I think the music speaks for itself. “Song Machine, Season One: Strange Timez” is an absolute home run.