The first single exposes the problem immediately as creative, visual technology goes nowhere at all in the albums video clip, with too many tools available to make it meaningful, sacrificing content over technological advancement that really takes too long to get interesting. “Look what you can do with this program”? Who cares? And I wonder why people are talking about, singing about or painting their phones? It’s all a bit too obvious and uninteresting and you’d think with this man’s travels and experiences that he may have found something more to offer, some deeper insights. It’s all a little too self-conscious and a little lazy whilst making sure that it’s sonically contemporary – a little too personal without giving much.
A nostalgia pervades over the consciously modern beats and use of piano. The sub bass, the programming, the tone of the bass drum sample are all lifted from a musical climate created by those innovators that both preceded and followed Gorillaz early releases. He sounds like a middle class, middle aged actor driving a Jag disconnected from reality on the other side of the power windows, trying his best to appeal to the real hip kids half his age. Mr Tembo sounds like a comedian’s novelty single and ends like an East Enders Christmas party.
His voice has little commanding presence and I reflect on what a crime it is that Julian Cope sits on the periphery with so much more to say about disconnected society and frankly a better voice and better songs. Cope of course wouldn’t result to these contrived electronics to express his views. You feel like if Ron Sexsmith had had this idea and written the lyrics it would mean more, as he has the voice and the sentiment, a down to earth quality if not the street credibility that Albarn has. So maybe you could even keep the programming, and of course if Robert Wyatt had done it – it would be a masterpiece, Albarn can’t pull it off without the Gorillaz gimmicry.
So sadly the record would be better if it wasn’t him. It might even be better with the same songs on it, Albarn seems to magnify the insignificance. It’s not the hopelessness of modern man in this mad world that we need to divert our attention towards, it’s the inability to aspire to what matters and this album doesn’t get us there – it inadvertently exacerbates the problem by executing it. So ironically the album is a massive conceptual success and that’s how the digital generation will see it, confusing soft samples as emotional depth and missing the point completely whilst wondering why life feels so empty when they have everything.