Gorillaz – ‘Song Machine, Season One: Strange Timez’ | Album Review

gorrillaz song machine album cover

Song Machine sees a return to form for Damon Albarn and friends!

Gorillaz has been a pet project of Daman Albarn for 20 years and has seen its share of success and some more middling responses. The group has often swerved away from the distinctive Britpop sounds of Albarn’s main group Blur and incorporated a more diverse range of influences and styles ranging from Jazz to Synthpop, Electronic and R&B and everything inbetween. The groups run from Gorillaz to Plastic Beach represents some of the most well received work of Albarn’s storied career. Following a more middling response for 2017’s Humanz and 2018’s the Now Now, the group are back with a fine record with Song Machine Season One recorded prior to and during the Pandemic.

As ever it wouldn’t be a Gorillaz record without a few pairs of helping hands throughout and Song Machine has a diverse range with the likes of Elton John, Beck, Robert Smith (The Cure), Slowthai, Slaves & St Vincent on hand. Albarn is still firmly front and centre and the collaborations feel far more cohesive and natural than on Humanz where at times it verged on chaotic and directionless although it isn’t a bad record. This record sits much more highly in the top tier of Gorillaz records.

Opener Strange Timez which features Smith sounds like the Cure on acid, Smith’s voice sounds in fine fettle and it really rattles along. The Valley Of The Pagans makes the most of Beck’s distinctive indie soundings and really gives him a chance to shine. Chalk Tablet Towers is one of the more frustrating collabs as St Vincent is credited but it is hard to discern her influence on the track beyond being a writer as there isn’t much of a trace of her sound or vocals on display.

While not flawless Song Machine is an example of how Gorillaz collaborations can bring the most out of both Daman Albarn and his cohort of guest stars, it is a thrill to hear such an eclectic mix and there is something for everyone with Peter Hook sure to be an attraction for New Order and Joy Divison fans and the late great Afrobeat icon Tony Allen getting a fitting swansong. With the sheer scale of collaborations and apparent initial want to just release the singles the album sits very well as a whole and is one of Albarn’s strongest since Blur’s reunion record the Magic Whip in 2015.

With a tour and follow-up record pencilled in for 2021, one of British Music’s busiest stars is going to be a constant presence and shows no signs of fading. Here’s hoping Season Two of this project delivers on the promises and eclecticness of its first part.

Listen to the brand new album from Gorillaz below on Spotify

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