The most successful singles of Damon Albarn’s bands Blur and Gorillaz have been the meta ones—the ones that warn of pop music as an opiate for the masses while themselves serving as pretty excellent opiates for the masses. Radio listeners headbanged to the woo-hoos in “Song 2” meant to mock their tastes; “Coffee and TV” pleasantly diagnosed a society of full ears and empty brains; Gorillaz’s two smashes, “Clint Eastwood” and “Feel Good Inc.,” sarcastically serenaded mass-produced pleasure and “sunshine in a bag.” Albarn has said he writes all of his pop in a minor key, which seems apt given his apparent determination that a party is more memorable when you’ve got a knot in your gut.
The theme of the fourth album by Gorillaz, Albarn’s “virtual” band with visual artist Jamie Hewlett, is determined—perhaps overdetermined—to keep the zombie-disco theme going. Publicity around the effort has largely centered on the apparent fact that Albarn told his collaborators a year ago to imagine a world in which Donald Trump had won the presidential election. The prompt was more sci-fi than predictive, meant to conjure a near future of Matrix Reloaded raves charged by fears of imminent doomsday. Now that Trump is actually in office, though, something about the concept seems off. Is the nation actually dancing differently now? Or is it just spending even more time on Twitter? The Matrix Reloaded drummer performed at the inauguration, after all.