Gorillaz Change Things Up With New Audiovisual Series, “Song Machine”

by Jared Moser

Gorillaz, a band that has remained a mystery for almost 22 years, present their new project, Song Machine. Created by British musician Damon Albarn and cartoon artist Jamie Hewlett, Gorillaz are a virtual band of four animated characters: 2-D (vocals), Murdoc Niccals (bass), Noodle (guitar), and Russel Hobbs (drums). These four animated musicians make up the band’s faces and story-telling element through altered interviews, music videos, and virtual concert experiences. Since their self-titled debut dropped in 2001, Albarn has released many other hits under the name Gorillaz. Albums such as Demon Days in 2005 and Plastic Beach in 2010, reached sixth and second on the U.S. Billboard Hot 200.

Following the underwhelming release of their sixth record The Now Now in 2018, Gorillaz bring us a new project titled Song Machine. In an unorthodox way of releasing new music, Albarn plans to release individual audiovisual episodes consisting of a new song with a music video of sorts, implementing real video with the animated characters weaving in and out of reality. With one episode out already, and an entire season planned out, it’s exciting to see this creative way of releasing music.

Episode one, “Momentary Bliss,” featuring Slowthai and Slaves, is a single that packs more than enough Gorillaz feels into about four minutes. It begins with a smooth, melodic guitar riff, weaving in and out of the spaced out drums and gentle vocals from Albarn. It has a soothing “vibe” feel that sounds amazing, but it sadly gets cut off, and slowly transitions into a tuba-like keyboard and synth section. Slowthai, a British rapper who found his fame in 2019, raps over the ever-building chorus, which gets busier and more crowded as the song grows. When the song hits its climax, everything builds, from the keyboard, guitar, and drums to the vocals and background vocals.

As energetic as it is, nothing is leading the charge in this section of the song. Many things are lost and washed out due to the congested chorus. The drums have potential because of how punchy and crash heavy they are, but they’re buried under two or three layers of synths and guitar. This build happens once more, only to fade out into a beautiful section identical to the introduction, only this outro implements melodic piano behind the guitar, drums, and vocals.

“Momentary Bliss” isn’t flawless, but it’s enjoyable, and I would go back and listen to it on my own. Though the middle section isn’t my favorite, due to its congested chorus and length, the beginning and end carry the song for me. The rap section isn’t bad, but it could have been used in a much more impactful way. It seemed as though it’s written as a bridge section rather than the body of the song. If the intro and outro could have been the heart of the song, it would have been spectacular.

Overall, “Momentary Bliss” has production that’s decent, it’s never flat, and all the different elements of the song have depth, hearing distant background vocals and sound effects from the other fictional characters. I’m curious to hear whether this is a taste of what the rest of Song Machine will sound and feel like, or if every episode will house something special.

Check out the video for “Momentary Bliss” here (NSFW: language):