Review – Gorillaz “Plastic Beach”

Five years. A five year draught and what we get? A plastic beach!

Gorillaz are back in style and the extended break between albums seem to be getting the job done. From the “Waaa-hey, I nicked this from Vivaldi” introduction with an orchestra called, well, ‘Orchestral info’, you know you are getting in for a ride.

Whereas Demon Days started with the creepy, Plastic beach goes for beats and thumping bass. Snoop Doggy Dogg is the first of a VERY LONG list of guest stars. Although having a revolving door policy of guests might sound like a recipe for a disaster, well, it’s not a massive disaster, but can’t say it works all the time. Pretty much like the previous efforts so far. Still, De la Soul and that fella from Super Furry Animals are guests in the same song. You heard that right and it’s as trippy as it sounds.

Looking at the whole concept, it’s hard trying to find where 2D and Damon Albarn differ. Something always made me think that the whole Gorillaz thing was part of the cathartic exercise Albarn has been doing since breaking up from Justine Frischmann.

But let’s drop the Heat sensibilities and let’s go back to the music. And if you liked the previous Gorillaz efforts, this should be right up your alley. The glitch pop is right here, the samples floor any of the stuff a certain Timbaland has been coughing our ways as of late and massive kudos for Albarn and Howlett in getting Mr. Bobby Womack from out of the mothballs for not one but two excellent collaborations. The same quality comes from Little Dragon, doing some of their electronic wizard-ness in two tracks (‘Empire ants‘ = quality).

The music muscles do get flexed a bit, courtesy of some interesting instrumentation. This includes the Lebanese National Orchestra for Oriental Arabic Music (try saying that five times!) which gives and extra edge above the electronica/glitch that Gorillaz was known for.

Any doubts from either ‘Stylo’ or ‘Superfast Jellyfish’ being pointless are unbased. Granted, as solitary pieces, they don’t  quite achieve what they want (whatever that is), but when heard in the context of a whole narrative, they make sense.

The best thing about a concept like Gorillaz is the liberty of just inviting whoever they can come up with and road test the song. The genre doesn’t match? Make it sound more like something they’d like. Damon Albarn was cited saying “Gorillaz is a group of people who gave you this, and now want to give you new stuff”.

Be warned, though, if you simply don’t like rap, this album will have you skipping quite a share of tracks. If you are ambiguous about them, you can stream the album and maybe a more educated guess can be done?

Not all is dance dance to the music. The last collaboration with Bobby Womack, ‘Cloud of unknowing’ is amazingly stark, a sobering experience after the partying or just the inherent sadness that you feel on every single Gorillaz song finally surfacing out for a fatal bite?

Dear Gorillaz: take your time if there’s a fourth one. The wait is well worth it. If not, all the left over songs could be made into compilations, just like G-sides and D-sides (will it be P-sides?).

Out of all the Gorillaz’ albums, this is probably the one that gels together the best. Whereas their first album was a mish mash of electronic beats and ambients and the second one indulged into soul, funk and even choral bits, Plastic Beach is amazing pop. Anything that makes you forget Lou Reed is a very nasty person can’t be bad at all!


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