Gorillaz – Song Machine, Season One: Strange Timez / ALBUM REVIEW

hi i’m red and these are my 
takes on all things music  
here we are with a review of the new gorillaz 
album song machine season 1 strange timez
it is the seventh studio album of 
the virtual band as it celebrates its  
20th anniversary it is also the culmination of a 
web series with a collection of singles and music  
videos and it is as eclectic as it was announced 
by the tracklist that was unveiled a month  
prior to the album with artists like st vincent 
beck schoolboy q robert smith slowthai and more  
and we get the feeling that each artist 
is not there by chance or for mass appeal  
they each bring what they do best to the table and 
damon adapts his song writing style and instincts  
to marry his and theirs for maximal effect as put 
by russell from the band itself song machine feeds  
on the unknown runs on pure chaos so whatever the 
hell’s coming we’re primed and ready to produce  
like there’s no tomorrow and in 2020 no tomorrows 
are guaranteed indeed at the beginning of the  
project damon had absolutely no idea where it was 
going so him and remy kabaka jr are the producers  
in chief they make sure that this collection 
of

songs sounds coherent despite no overarching  
concept or clear thread to connect the dots we 
get some soul some funk hints of disco and club  
but also dashes of hip-hop and generous amounts of 
psychedelia and while humanz and the now now might  
have sounded a bit all over the place strange 
timez knows what to pick from and in what amounts  
bleak times have long fueled gorillaz’ vision and 
this new time is no exception damon said we live  
in an era of hysteria and this is a manifestation 
of that hysteria and the music speaks for itself  
across this diverse set of features production 
from the kabaka albarn duo manages to string  
tracks remarkably well together considering the 
distinct sounds that each guest brings to the  
table remi and damon are particularly adept 
at making the most of slight dissonance and  
off-melodies as well as playing with expectations 
to maintain interestdesole rings of french art pop  
with malian singer actress fatoumata diawara who 
already made a great appearance on disclosure’s  
latest lp back in august she works especially well 
with damon to soft guitar riffs and a driving beat
the title track with robert smith from the cure 
is perhaps the most disorienting track it doesn’t  
just dabble in dissonance it is drenched in it 
it is filled with lyrical existential dread and  
contradictions that will make you question your 
reality which matches the sonic chaos especially  
well the valley of the pagans is another strange 
beast alongside beck it has some of the weirdest  
lyrics 100 million viagra tablets stored in a 
warehouse in a valley the freeway lizards are  
all feeling so good from a one-way trip back 
to west hollywood she’s a plastic cleopatra  
on a throne of ice she’s a hemophiliac 
with a dying battery life candy-colored  
fingers and schadenfreude eyes thinking 
airbrushed thoughts with a logo on her mind  
it’s incredibly busy and this shiny synth rock 
tune with a touch of nu disco has an emphatic  
quality that turns the melodic off-ness to its 
advantage the schoolboy q feature on pac-man is  
perhaps the one that is most reminiscent of what 
gorillaz used to do at the turn of the century  
from its opening few seconds and then it 
breaks into this kind of schizophrenic bridge  
with the repetition of those words stressing out 
stressing out before schoolboy q’s part takes off  
chalk tablet towers is also slightly dissonant 
this time with a spring feel with bright synth  
and low-key contributions by st. vincent it is 
not as memorable as the rest of the album in  
the context of strange timez but still a pretty 
good track friday 13th is a dub dancehall hybrid  
that provides a cool down after the fiery aries 
and comes off a bit bland in the aftermath of  
its predecessor with 2d’s contribution pushed at 
the very end of the track and its lack of strong  
melodies it sticks out a bit of the track list 
as a bit unsure of itself but dead butterflies  
is the true misfit on the tracklist this mike 
will made it production takes it out of the album  
entirely it’s still a good track but doesn’t sound 
like anything that should be on strange timez  
it is much much much more sparse than all of its 
neighbors at about midway through the album the  
aloofness with which damon’s lines were delivered 
in the first half turns heartfelt and production  
lets us peek behind this newly audible frustration 
and anguish on the first track 2d is heard through  
some kind of interference sounding incredibly 
distant damon’s vocals also sound quite distorted  
on the valley of the pagans as is transmitted 
across a dense medium that captured some of the  
original sharpness of the voice the pink phantom 
is then a turning point seemingly about showering  
a love interest with gifts and affection and 
getting nothing or very little in return it has  
a striking bassline and a flair for drama that is 
not only reinforced by elton’s theatrical delivery  
but also by damon bridging the social distance 
he kept to during the previous tracks the song  
really is simultaneously adventurous and classic 
sounding absolutely nothing sounds out of place  
even its strange contortions make it a display 
of taste and commitment aries snowballs into an  
energetic 80s inspired track with sporadic 
guitar clangs and relentless drum machines  
providing great contrast to the psychedelic art 
pop of pink phantom and it sounds as emotionally  
potent at its predecessors as it addresses 
this need for connection that we have in  
this continuously more fragmented world they even 
throw in what sounds like a gatsby reference to  
the sound of a fomenting storm the closest we get 
to a thematic common thread across strange timez  
is this idea of breaking free from a real and 
figurative chains as a necessity and not to  
be confounded with the illusionof freedom that 
comes with seeking escapism to solve all your  
problems the valley of the pagans is a take on 
the dangers of leading a disillusioned to life  
where priorities need some shuffling the lost 
chord takes this notion of freedom to an extreme  
with the suggestion that 2d longs for freedom from 
some metaphorical chains or perhaps the figurative  
exploitation of the virtual ban by their puppet 
masters damon albarn and jamie hewlett vocals are  
front and center with the welcome addition of leee 
john’s beautiful head voice chalk tablet towers  
also seems to seek some freedom from some kind 
of codependency and momentary bliss is a glorious  
exit and critique of the music industry taking 
on this notion of instant gratification and the  
alluring effects of wealth and commercial success 
and the track does so on so many levels we get  
some straightforward lyrical content from slowthai 
including the chorus we could do so much better  
than this mausoleum faces and momentary bliss but 
also some nuggets like the radiohead reference  
and you are special so [ __ ] special referencing 
this track that became the band’s worst nightmare  
and i should also mention the lovely rita winks 
that takes us back to the days of one of the first  
make believe pop band of all time sgt pepper’s 
lonely hearts club band that was founded to  
separate the artists from the music to the best 
of their ability of course it is truly remarkable  
how an endeavor that started with so much 
uncertainty as the song machine series and kept  
rolling without ever a checkpoint or a conclusion 
in sight managed to sound as coherent and focused  
as this one does for this and more i am giving 
it an eight what did you think of the album did  
you like it did you dislike it what rating 
would you give it let me know in the comment  
section below and like and subscribe for more 
reviews recommendations and reactions also let  
me know what review you would like me to do next 
until next time i am red and these were my takes

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