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Gorillaz – Song Machine: Season One Review

The sudden rise and amazingly fast fall of Gorillaz fascinates me to some degree. Their self-titled debut was a superb introduction to the new sounds offered up by Blur frontman, Damon Albarn. Demon Days was even better, featuring some incredible singles that paired Albarn up with swathes of talent, the greatest of all being Shaun Ryder. After that, though, there was little of interest. Their mainstream interest waned somewhat, and I’ve not met anyone who has listened to Humanz or The Now Now, which I have listened to, and don’t recommend whatsoever. Their latest release, Song Machine: Season One, offers up a setlist of collaborations that are made in the hopes of revitalising the appeal Gorillaz once had. It doesn’t work.

Collaborating with some odd guests, from veteran songwriters like Elton John and St. Vincent to the fresh faces of music with Slaves and Robert Smith, it feels like the album is trying to bank on the success of others. Star-studded tracks do not translate to era-defining quality. What we have here is a poor amalgamation of songs with forgettable lyrics, vaguely enjoyable beats, and underwhelming mixing. No songs here to provide that pumped-up energy Gorillaz once had, their artistic sentiments feel bloated and smug. Season One is rather underwhelming, if it were a TV show I doubt it’d be renewed for a second outing.

As expected, the singles manage to stick together well, with the mellow sounds of Momentary Bliss striking up or slowing down in stringent link with Albarn’s vocals. Désolé offers up some infrequent French singing from Albarn, something he’s been dying to lean into ever since he wrote To The End back in the early 90s. A rather underwhelming single and poor showing from the collaboration of Albarn and Fatoumata Diawara, these two singles close an album full of tremendously forgettable earworms. The art-pop mix throughout Song Machine: Season One isn’t a convincing one, and it’s a real shame they don’t move away from the oversaturated synthpop market.

Gorillaz prove once more that they’re floundering around, begging for a stroke of good fortune and opportune influence. No song that sticks out as anything truly memorable, or hitting the great peak that Demon Days did, even when, in hindsight, that album isn’t a wholly interesting piece. Much like Blur, Gorillaz are a band dependent on their singles, but the singles aren’t even particularly good for this one, they don’t gel well with the rest of the album. Nothing memorable, but features a plethora of collaborations with artist you’ll have heard of, Gorillaz: Song Machine, Season One will coast on the names it can offer contemporary audiences, but it doesn’t work for me since I don’t know what a Slowthai is. I know who Slaves are though, give me some credit.

Ewan Gleadow
Ewan Gleadow
Editor in Chief at Cult Following | News and culture journalist at Clapper, Daily Star, NewcastleWorld, Daily Mirror | Podcast host of (Don't) Listen to This | Disaster magnet

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