Returning from a brief hiatus, Gorillaz and their Song Machine are back to releasing stellar singles. This month? Robert Smith, of famed 80s New Wave/punk band The Cure, provided his vocals for the band’s latest, “Strange Timez.” The track’s title is a reference to the COVID-landscape we’re stuck in, and the track itself is strange and slightly abrasive, but entirely incredible. In addition to the Robert Smith featured single, a remix of the song was released on September 9 as well, only adding to the thrill of the day’s release.
“Strange Timez” is one of Gorillaz’s eeriest tracks. With a minor piano riff that repeats through the whole song and whirring that can only be described as spaceship-like, the instrumentals on this single are bizarre. Smith’s vocals are pristine; he sounds just as good as he did 35 years ago. Damon Albarn’s virtual 2-D provides vocals for the spoken “Strange Timez” verses. The song has a cyclical feeling to it, carrying the listener through each of its choruses and narrated verses.
Just before the 2-minute mark, the song transitions from an eerie narrated track to a more danceable one. Smith sings, backed by an electro-pop beat, “Spinnin’ around the world at night/Spin around in black and white/Spinnin’ around until the sun comes up/Strange time to see the light.” His chorus stays constant through the entirety of the song, adding to the repetitive nature of the song’s message. “Strange Timez” echoes the current climate we’re in, and the literal structure and lyrics of the song do the same.
With that, though, I must say “Strange Timez” is an especially unusual sounding track for Gorillaz. The weirdness of “Strange Timez” is attractive and expected from this collaboration upon further thought. The structure of the single feels unconventional and uncomfortable even, upon first listen—but that’s the beauty of it. The more I listen to this single, the more it grows on me. The combination of two unconventional artists produces an unconventional outcome, and that’s exactly what the Song Machine project is all about.
News from the Machine
In addition to the release of the “Strange Timez” single, Gorillaz announced their next album, titled the same. Strange Timez is slated for October 23 and will serve as a compilation album. Strange Timez is the band’s 7th studio album following the release of The Now Now in 2018. At the moment, Strange Timez is 17-songs long, with features from prominent artists and musical legends like Sir Elton John and St. Vincent. It’s unclear if the Song Machine series will continue to release songs ahead of time as singles preceding the album or if Gorillaz listeners will have to wait until October for new content.
“Strange Timez” is the perfect mix between the alternative sounds of both Gorillaz and The Cure. It’s weird and repetitive, but catchy and danceable all the same. Gorillaz finds the perfect balance between familiar and otherworldly on this track, and couple it with a featured artist who emulates the same. Overall, fans are excited by the release of “Strange Timez,” both the song and new album. The Gorillaz are back and full of surprises, and I personally cannot wait to see more.
Stream “Strange Timez” here.
Pre-order Strange Timez. Out everywhere October 23.
Featured image via Gorillaz.