The Now Now dropped on June 29, a little over a year after the 2017 release of Humanz—a genre-defying, guest star-studded smorgasbord of an album. The Now Now features only three musical cameos, choosing instead to privilege Damon Albarn’s voice, revealing an interiority previously unexplored on Gorillaz albums. In “Fire Flies,” Albarn sifts through meditations on isolation and regret against a moody, bass-heavy melody. “And if you say goodbye too many times,” he sings mournfully, “The sentinels will find me and switch me off this time.” The result is uncharacteristically poignant and mature.
Other successes include “Humility,” which was released on May 31 as a single and features none other than jazz-guitar aficionado George Benson. The tune is summer-y and bright, the lyrics wistful and earnest. “I need you in the picture / that’s why I’m calling you,” Albarn sings simply.
If the The Now Now was Albarn’s attempt at producing a more mature, thoughtful album, then, for all intents and purposes, he succeeded. Were it any other band, the record would be an exemplary addition to their discography—a fine piece of work, but ultimately forgettable. There’s just something so disheartening about the fact that Gorillaz feels the need to grow up at all.
2018 marks twenty years since Albarn first assumed the role of the plucky, animated guitarist that would come to rock the world senseless with his noisy, raunchy, eclectic sound. It’s also the year that Damon Albarn turned fifty. At its peak, Gorillaz was a force to be reckoned with, and we should remember them that way. After all, it’s hard to be a renegade and stay timeless.