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Gorillaz review: Cartoon band scales back on 'The Now Now'

"The Now Now" is Gorillaz's newest studio album. Credit: Warner Bros.

GORILLAZ

"The Now Now"

BOTTOM LINE The cartoon band gets more serious and focused.

It’s hard to imagine how (or why) a cartoon band would scale back. But that’s what the Gorillaz have done for their new album, “The Now Now” (Warner Bros.), following hot on the heels of last year’s “Humanz.”

Instead of the collaborator-stuffed “Humanz,” there are only three guests on “The Now Now” — George Benson, who contributes the smooth jazz guitar on “Humility,” and house music artist Jamie Principle and Snoop Dogg on the groove-driven “Hollywood.” That leaves the bulk of the album in the hands of 2D (aka Damon Albarn), who sounds more downtrodden and contemplative than usual. “I’m not going to cry,” he declares in the dreamy “Kansas,” even though he doesn’t seem entirely convinced.

On “Magic City,” he adopts latter-day David Bowie gravitas in his delivery, though there is uncertainty here too, as he wonders, “You’ve got me lost in Magic City. You’ve got me questioning it all.”

“The Now Now” is a far more muted affair compared to previous Gorillaz Technicolor extravaganzas. But it is still as well-crafted as ever, with funky breaks such as “Lake Zurich” balancing the stately synth pop of “One Percent.”

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