Album Reviews Music

Album Review: ‘Song Machine, Season One: Strange Timez’ by Gorillaz

Words by Molly Allen
Image courtesy of Nasty Little Man PR

Gorillaz have had a busy few years, from their comeback album Humanz in 2017 after a five year hiatus, to their 2018 album The Now Now. Both of those albums were hugely anticipated, and neither of them disappointed. As a huge fan, I was ecstatic when they released ‘Momentary Bliss’, their first single for Song Machine back in January. I loved this song, and it soon became one of my favourite tracks of the year. But does the full album hold up?

The album opens with the song ‘Strange Timez’ featuring frontman of The Cure Robert Smith. This song perfectly represents the entire theme of the album; a strange selection of songs to accompany this strange year. The album has the usual Gorillaz style to it, with a constant mixing of genres and a wide range of collaborating artists, including Slow Thai, Fatoumata Diawara and even Elton John.

I enjoyed most of the songs on the album, and they all complement each other well despite the many genres. The ones that stood out to me were ‘PAC-MAN’, ‘The Valley of the Pagans’ and ‘Dead Butterflies’. ‘The Pink Phantom’ was my favourite track on the album, with the collaboration between Gorillaz, Elton John and 6LACK sounding incredible together. It’s obvious that ‘The Pink Phantom’ will be one of my favourite Gorillaz songs, especially since the music video included an animated Elton John, which in all honesty is one of the highlights of the year for me.

“Each album they produce will always have a message relating to current issues”

While I would recommend this album, like many artists there are a few songs that let this album down for me. I feel that ‘Friday 13th’ and ‘Opium’ were my least favourites, just because they weren’t as memorable as the other songs and felt less experimental than the others. I also found initially that I didn’t enjoy the tracks on the deluxe album as much as the main tracks, but since listening to them a few times they are beginning to grow on me.

I think particularly with Gorillaz it is important to see how this album compares to their other work. Considering their first album was released in 2001, it’s obvious that their style would have developed over the years. However, I do feel that the themes of the albums have always taken into consideration the culture and politics of the time. Gorillaz have always been political, but their return to music with an album like Humanz, one that slams Trump while boasting an apocalyptic atmosphere, implies that each album they produce will always have a message relating to current issues. I think that’s why Song Machine’s strange mixture of songs perfectly represents the events of 2020.

Read our previous Gorillaz review here.