I was really relieved when it was announced that Gorillaz were coming out with a new album, considering how the seemingly widespread aura of disappointment that resonated with fans after Humanz hit the web last year was still rather fresh in my brain. The overwhelming amount of features led to a complete lack of continuity on the aforementioned record, leaving me in a state of confusion, as Gorillaz had acquired a reputation for consistently putting out air-tight, forward thinking, yet accessible, tunes, ultimately leading to their undeniable cult following, yet Humanz seemed to lack everything that made people attracted to the “band” in the first place.

Approaching this new record, The Now Now, I was hoping for a return-to-form of sorts— not necessarily sonically, but more so in regards to consistency and innovation. What I was given, however, were admittedly well written tunes which lack both edge and depth, resulting in something rather empty and unsatisfying.

Conceptually speaking, The Now Now was described by the band as the character 2-D’s solo album, which almost sounds like a cop-out for the album’s inherent laziness and lack of ambition. The album reeks of exhaustion and apathy, which, given the time in which we are currently living, is difficult to internalize.

The album opens with ‘Humility’, featuring legendary guitarist George Benson, serving as the album’s obvious tone-setter. The song is upbeat, funky, bubbly, and, honestly speaking, plastic. Its catchiness is overshadowed by its cheesiness— the song could easily be mixed in with the casual playlists at Margaritaville and nobody would bat an eye. But hey, the guitar is nice….

A couple tracks later, we get ‘Hollywood’, which, in my eyes, is the highlight of the album. This track sees synth-wave properly coexist with both hip hop and house, as Albarn employs OG kush king (and returning Gorillaz guest) Snoop Dogg as well as Chicago House pioneer Jamie Principle to full effect. We are greeted with acid bass lines as well as a gorgeous groove which has more soul and feel to it than the rest of the tracks on The Now Now combined. The track also highlights Albarn’s vocal sensibilities, with his melancholic, cynical lyrics soaring above the underlying instrumentation.

Unfortunately, despite the occasional high points, The Now Now just doesn’t hold its weight.Tracks like ‘Kansas’ and ‘Idaho’ feel vacuous, and more like demos than anything. When I first heard the former track, I felt like I was listening to a Currents b-side, as the 80s inspired drum samples in combination with the analog-inspired synth lines had Kevin Parker written all over it, yet lacked the presence and energy that the Tame Impala front-man emanates.

We see the album close with ‘One Percent’ and ‘Souk Eye’, two tracks which have more emotional pull than almost anything preceding them. Tunes like these remind me of Albarn’s vast songwriting and poetic capabilities, which is why this album is so frustrating. Gleams and glances of Albarn’s potential are almost omnipresent, yet never really come into fruition.

Going forward, I would like to see the band leader refocus himself. Gorillaz have a past that is so concerned with presentation, ambition, and thoughtfulness. Lately, it seems the band (moreover, Albarn) has developed a “Why not?” attitude in regards to releasing their music, and, considering this, it’s hard to be excited about the band’s future.