Song Review: ‘Aries’ by Gorillaz

Gorillaz have spontaneously dropped ‘Aries’, the third track in their 13-episode Song Machine series. The virtual band, co-created by Blur frontman Damon Albarn and artist Jamie Hewlett, have stated that Song Machine and its accompanying music videos “feed on the unknown, running on pure chaos” and have been made to ‘break the mould’. With previous entries ‘Momentary Bliss’ and ‘Désolé’ featuring the likes of Slaves, Slowthai, and Fatoumata Diawara, ‘Aries’ recruits London producer Georgia and former New Order bassist Peter Hook to give the song a plaintive new wave feel. For nearly two decades Gorillaz have been known for their seemingly unending list of collaborators, and unlike 2017’s middling album Humanz, the Song Machine tracks released thus far have successfully given the band the necessary dynamism to make their music as rousing as it once was.

‘Aries’ begins with a steadily oscillating synth loop, quickly accompanied by an electronic drum beat and various other scattered percussive sounds. It’s standard fare as far as the synthpop sound goes but the early presence of Hook’s melodic bassline early on gives it some much needed emotion. Albarn’s vocals (delivered via the persona of virtual lead singer 2-D) are cryptic, alluding to ideas of isolation and desire with a sense of detachment:

“Cause I feel so isolated without you / I can’t play a happy tune on my own, so stay by my side / High or low tide”

The Gorrilaz

These are relevant themes given the current state of the world, and whether or not the song’s timely title suggests that this was intentional on Albarn’s part is hard to say for sure. The music video certainly imparts a somewhat apocalyptic atmosphere, setting most of the action with 2-D and fictional bassist Murdoc on a motorcycle journey across a photonegative landscape (Not to mention it ends with a message directly to the viewer: “Make sure you stay in, stay safe, and stay tuned…and keep washing your hands”).

The song is at its best when it flirts with transcendence, best found in the moments when its layers feel their most cohesive. The clearest example of this is in the chorus, where Hook joins in on backing vocals, listlessly repeating the line “High tide” as echoing synth keys and drum fills ornament the preexisting instrumental.

Bookended by a pair of comical skits (‘Machine Bitez #6’ and ‘#7’), ‘Aries’ is moody and compelling, overcoming some instances of lyrical simplicity with well-orchestrated sounds.