In late 2014, rumours began circulating about a possible Gorillaz return. This seemed to be confirmed in early 2015, when the band’s visual designer and co-creator Jamie Hewlett posted a few new pictures of Gorillaz drawings and artwork on Instagram. Damon Albarn later announced the band would be releasing new music in 2016. But 2016 came and went, and still nothing from the animated band. Finally, five years after announcing their hiatus, Gorillaz have returned, with a political statement single that no-one saw coming.
‘Hallelujah Money’ was released to the world on Thursday afternoon, welcomed in by a tweet from the band’s fictional bass member Murdoc saying “Dark times – u need someone to look up to. Me. Here’s a lightning bolt of truth in a black night. Now piss on! New stuff won’t write itself.” The ‘dark times’ he refers to appears to be the inauguration of Donald Trump, occurring the day after the single release, with the mournful vocals of Mercury Prize winner Benjamin Clementine alluding to apocalyptic circumstances – “If this be the end, then so shall it be.” Although not as fast-paced as some fans anticipated, the song still holds many typical Gorillaz characteristics: a darkly-layered, slightly off-beat instrumental, a confusing manipulation of electronic sounds and gospel samples. Not forgetting, of course, the unmistakeable, tender vocals of Damon Albarn himself. Perhaps ‘Hallelujah’ isn’t such an easy, enjoyable listen as ‘Dirty Harry’, ‘Stylo’ or ‘Clint Eastwood’, but it is definitely an important musical landmark for them, and its well-timed release an undeniably Gorillaz move.
Although no further details of their album release or indeed anything about it has been announced, it seems unlikely ‘Hallelujah Money’ will feature. On speaking of the album last year, Albarn said it’s “really fast”, with “quite a lot of energy”, and this new single doesn’t seem to fit with that description. It’s instead likely to be a standalone political statement, or as other news articles have been branding it, an “anti-Trump anthem”.
Either way, ‘Hallelujah Money’ is definitively unique and exquisitely timed: a pure example of Albarn’s genius.