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Gorillaz: Song Machine Season One: Strange Timez review – playful and potent collaboration

Kitty Empire
·1-min read

The Now Now (2018) was one of those Gorillaz albums that dispensed with the hip hop-led collaborations that have often defined this band of ink and flesh. Guests are in full effect, though, on its follow-up: what’s billed as Season One of the band’s Song Machine concept, compiling the tracks Gorillaz have released monthly via their YouTube channel since January, plus extra helpings.

Everything that has ever been engaging about Gorillaz is present in spades here. Playfulness and conceptual ambition are all anchored by Damon Albarn’s melodic melancholy and his side-eye at the suboptimal state of things. His Bowie fixation waxes hard on unreleased tracks – such as The Lost Chord – as well those already in the public domain (Aries).

Lifers might miss the very old school flows of the band’s earlier hook-ups, but the dizzying array of present voices – from 6lack to Octavian via US producer Mike Will Made It – renews Gorillaz’ relevance as beat merchants, while the assured application of other talents (from Robert Smith to Fatoumata Diawara, Peter Hook to St Vincent) ensures textural breadth. A strangely cogent album for wildly unstable times.