Notting Hill Carnival is such a staple in British culture that many of us are experiencing withdrawals from COVID’s cancellation of the world’s second-largest carnival. Revellers from all over the world cram into the west London streets to catch a glimpse of the colourful outfits and the amazing synchronicity of everyone dancing. But with Notting Hill Carnival off the cards for the first time since its inception in 1966, the revolutionary cartoon band that is Gorillaz – who have recently celebrated 20 years of their self-titled debut album – pay tribute to its representation of Black British culture with their latest three-track EP, ‘Meanwhile’.
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For the EP, masterminds Damon Albarn and Jamie Hewlett’s have involved two west Londoners – rap newcomer Jelani Blackman and W10’s iconic AJ Tracey – as well as London’s resident Jamaican-born hot shot Alicai Harley. The result is a delightful little array. Jelani Blackman helps out with the title track, opening up the EP with a husky voice that sounds silky but also seems to be searching for the pocket of the track. ‘Meanwhile’ seems a bit disjointed compared to the EP’s other offerings, though that’s no bad thing. It would be impossible not to be moved as Blackman speaks about his link to the carnival’s history: “Back in day, Notting Hill weren’t no film / Teddy Boys on my Granddad, on sight, but he backed it because his bones like steel”.
The other two tracks – ‘Jimmy Jimmy’ and ‘Déjà Vu’ – show off the tropical sounds of the Caribbean in different ways. The former features a singing AJ Tracey, the rapper playing around over a fun ska track, accompanied by the wonderful sound of Damon Albarn taking the lead on the chorus. On the latter, Alicai Harley gives calypso a try as she and Albarn take turns to impress the listeners with their refreshing vocals. Both songs are capsules that harness the Notting Hill Carnival energy of feel-good and drunken spirits, which are loved both here and in the Caribbean.
Overall, ‘Meanwhile’ (the EP is sentimentally named after Meanwhile Gardens, where Gorillaz first performed during Carnival in 2000) is a great pick-me-up for those still down-and-out that they can’t dance at the annual celebration this year (at least 2020’s moved online). But as we all go to parties and other events to mark this Bank Holiday weekend, it’s the perfect soundtrack to get you in the spirit before you go and wreck a dancefloor.
Released: August 26
Record label: Parlophone Records