Gorillaz – Plastic Beach Gorillaz – Plastic Beach

Gorillaz - Plastic Beach

Gorillaz - Plastic Beach

Damon Albarn, front man and co-creator of the Gorillaz, has been a very busy man of late.  Even though a Gorillaz album has not been released since Demon Days, in late May of 2005, Albarn has been in constant creative motion.  Rare live shows, the Grammy Awards with Madonna, a release of a B-sides compilation, a new band to promote (The Good, The Bad, & the Queen), and an opera entitled Monkey:  Journey to the West all siphoned time and energy from the British rock star.  Finally the cartoon foursome has returned with a big project in Plastic Beach.
On the surface Plastic Beach is a gargantuan concept album.  What does that mean for the listener?  Do not expect to be completely blown away, or even pleasantly surprised, on the first few listens.  There is a lot to digest here.  Synth-pop is what comes out of the oven after all the ingredients are mixed, and boy is it a long list of ingredients.

Snoop Dogg kicks things off after the intro on one of the strongest tracks in “Welcome To The World Of The Plastic Beach.”   The first single (“Stylo”) puts Mos Def behind the mic before Bobby Womack takes things over and cements the song as a powerhouse single.  This is the commencement of the newcomers to the Gorillaz world.

Other guests include stirring vocals from Yukimi Nagano and her band Little Dragon, a haunting Mark E. Smith, Gruff Ryhs (of Super Furry Animals fame), De La Soul, and the Hypnotic Brass Ensemble.  This all seems superb at first, and in reality it is, but the question left is where is Damon Albarn, and where are the Gorillaz?  The answer is in the depths of the album.  Damon Albarn, the lead man of Gorillaz, is completely noticeable on six tracks, six out of sixteen.  The songs where Albarn’s vocals do take the forefront are low key for the most part.  “On Melancholy Hill”, for example, is a love song only the way the Gorillaz would have it.

The album seems quite divided, with the initial half quite upbeat and dance-worthy.  “Rhinestone Eyes” combine an intentionally cold and stiff vocal performance with hard driving synth beats and a chorus of kids.  The latter half of the album, on the whole, is a lonelier affair.    Tracks like “Empire Ants” combine both elements skillfully, and illuminate the Beach.  Seemingly, there are lulls in the experience and the album lacks continuity on a whole.

At the end of the day it is a synth-pop album through and through. Plastic Beach takes a few listens to comprehend what is going on.   Give it a few spins and get a good feel of it instead of dismissing it immediately. Expect more straightforward pop than previous releases.  Whether it ends up sticking or not, it is completely worth checking out.

Gorillaz - Plastic Beach, reviewed by Baer on 2010-03-09T04:22:51-08:00 rating 3.9 out of 5

3 Responses about “Gorillaz – Plastic Beach”

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  • rowe says:

    This album’s definitely growing on me…”Stylo” feat. Mos is my jam

  • bootsie says:

    Gorillaz Plastic Beach is awesome