For me, it all started with “Clint Eastwood”… the Gorillaz’ first single, released in 2001, that quickly reached iconic status and launched them into a wave of fame the band still rides today.
You know the song: “I ain’t happy, I’m feeling glad/I got sunshine in a bag/I’m useless but not for long/The future is coming on…”
That song somehow wholly encapsulated the Emotion of late teendom: That tension between totally chill and utterly hopeless, tinged with an ominous hunch of something big coming … something really big, that you definitely weren’t ready for: THE FUTURE.
With that song, the Gorillaz earned my undying allegiance, and I wasn’t the only one. The music video for “Clint Eastwood” wasn’t released on Youtube until June 2016 (15 years after the song), but still now has nearly 152 million views.
Videos are essential to Gorillaz songs because the band, fundamentally, is a virtual one: Formed in 1998 as a cartoon group by musician Damon Albarn and graphic artist Jamie Hewlett. For the Gorillaz’ latest album, – The Now Now – released June 29 of this year, each of its 11 songs has an accompanying, trippily hypnotic “visualizer” video on Youtube, ensuring the music is visually, as well as audibly, enticing.
The Now Now peaked at #4 on the Billboard 200 chart on July 14, making it the band’s fifth album to reach the top 10.
“Humility” (ft. legendary jazz guitarist George Benson), one of my top three favorite songs on the album, peaked at No. 85 on the Billboard 100 – the band’s fourth-ever song to hit the Hot 100. You’ve got to check out the “Humility” music video (currently at almost 44 million views) which does feature the classic Gorillaz animated band members, but mostly is live footage, and stars Jack Black.
The message of “Humility” is on point: “Calling the world from isolation/’Cause right now, that’s the ball where we be chained,” the song begins (PREACH!). We’ve got to reach out – “I want you in the picture/That’s why I’m calling you” – if we want to be saved from our isolation, it will require the humility of putting ourselves out there.
Overall, the album is very much for chilling out, with an almost trippy, psychedelic sort of feel … as if this album itself can give you a high. With hypnotic, early video-game esque melodies, it eases you into a daydream – soft and transcendental. Some songs, like “Lake Zurich” have almost no lyrics, while other songs, like “Humility” and “Hollywood,” catch you with the poignance of their lyrics right away.
In part, you’ll want to watch Hollywood’s visualizer video because it features Snoop Dogg, who suddenly materializes in the fresh flesh out of an otherwise completely virtual video. Snoop’s lookin’ good, too – his hair is sleek in pulled-back braids, and he’s rocking the spectacles, plus the varsity jacket, for a professorial Snoop meets high school jock Snoop look.
And we’re talking classic Snoop segment: “I got a deal to make/And couple bad ——- I’ve been making a break/Wake it and bake/I put the cake on the plate.”
But it wasn’t Snoop’s lyrics that struck me in this song, it was this line: “Jealousy is gunfire/it makes you kill the vibe.” Whoa – that’s powerful stuff. I don’t wanna shoot down any vibes … yikes! Best get rid of that jealous ammunition, then…
The “Hollywood” visualizer video doesn’t let you guess about the next lyrics – it flashes them in bright, urgent, all-caps blood red: “JEALOUSY AND DARK TIMES/ SINKING ON THE WEB/THERE’S MORE TO LOVE THAN THAT” … and then for the last part, each word is so huge it fills the screen entirely, one word at a time, for extra emphasis: “JEALOUSY / IS / VIBE / DOWN.” And once more: “JEALOUSY IS VIBE DOWN.” Got it?!
The last of my three favorite songs on the album is “Sorcererz.” Although I’m mentioning it last, it might be my favorite song on the album; it’s between this song and “Hollywood.” But “Sorcererz” is a great song for getting into that sacred zone of peaceful bliss: “Everybody cool down/everybody see yourself” … and gives you hope and inspiration from and toward that place: “Everybody hold on/Everybody hold on to your inner visions” and “Everybody minding/Everybody minding their own inner visions.” Imagine … !
Also! The Gorillaz currently are on tour, which is apparently a big deal. According to a very informative February 2018 article I found in The Sun UK edition entitled, “MONKEY BUSINESS – Who are Gorillaz?”, the band hasn’t toured much at all: “Albarn’s various solo commitments … combined with their status as a virtual band, mean live Gorillaz performances are rare, and they have toured just three times.”
So get keen, and check out the Gorillaz’ precious tour dates to see if you can catch them as they tour all over the world with a couple more dates in August, then seven shows in October, playing at epic festivals with legendary fellow headliners. For instance, the Gorillaz headlined Lollapalooza Paris on July 22 (wait, there’s a Lollapalooza Paris? … Right?! But yes, July 21 – 22 was the second annual Lollapalooza in Paris, casually held at the Hippodrome de Longchamp), they played alongside The Killers and Bastille. Or … I also wish I could’ve make it to the Sziget Festival 2018, currently happening in Budapest, Hungary, when the Gorillaz played on August 9, and other headliners include Kendrick Lamar, Mumford & Sons, Lana Del Rey, and the Arctic Monkeys. *drools*…
The Now Now is an album I loved listening to, keep listening to, and do not plan to stop listening to any time soon. As my new, and tres cool, friend Hutton remarked regarding The Now Now, “I just want to get it on vinyl.”
This is, indeed, the kind of album that sets the scene. It sets that chill, funky, slightly electronic ambiance – a very futuristic feel – and, pulsing out from an old record player … yep, that sounds just right.
The Gorillaz are back on top. Some lucky ones of us might even get to catch a glimpse of their takeover live this year. But looking to the future, let’s not forget the other Gorillaz classic that made you and me fall in love with this band back in the day.
C’mon, folks, let’s take it back to 2005 – after all, I wanna leave y’all feelin’ good…