THE GRADE A-
BOTTOM LINE The cartoon band takes an unflinching look at the real world.
Damon Albarn, the very real co-creator of the fictional cartoon band Gorillaz, had a very specific night in mind when he was creating the new album “Humanz” (Warner Bros.) — the night Donald Trump was elected president.
Of course, “Humanz” was completed before Trump was elected, and Albarn meticulously went through and removed any references to the 45th president in the lyrics. What the Britpop hero wanted to capture was the mood, not the details, of the moment. He wanted to imagine what a party feels like when the future is so uncertain.
“The sky’s falling, baby,” guest star Vince Staples declares in “Ascension.” “Drop that ass before it crash.”
And that’s the vibe Albarn creates for much of “Humanz,” with the help of everyone from newcomer Benjamin Clementine, who warms up the apocalyptic drama “Hallelujah Money,” to the legendary Grace Jones, who splits vocal duties with Albarn’s cartoon alter ego, Murdoc, in the buzzing EDM of “Charger.”
Gorillaz teams up with Amityville’s De La Soul to build a high point with the frantic synth pop of “Momentz,” reviving the partnership that gave both groups their biggest hit with “Feel Good Inc.” However, Danny Brown’s wild rhymes on the groove-driven “Submission,” a perfect balance to Kelela’s soulful cool, takes the prize for the album’s most inspired collaboration. “At times, I feel like giving up ’cause it feels like I’ve had enough,” Brown says in his distinctive, wild-eyed flow. “Felt like my soul in handcuffs, got questions with no answers.”
Albarn tries to offer a solution with the finale “We Got the Power,” an upbeat anthem delivered with Savages’ Jehnny Beth and his one-time rival Noel Gallagher. (Remember when we were required to pick between Albarn’s Blur and the Gallaghers in Oasis?) It summarizes the “Humanz” theme that you can enjoy the present and still fret about the future.