Plastic Beach – Gorillaz (March 2010)

After five long years, Gorillaz, the most popular virtual band of all time barring only Alvin And The Chipmunks, return with mastermind Damon Albarn’s most interesting, though not greatest, work.  Plastic Beach has so many collaborators, and that’s the reason that the album is as entrancing and sonically varied as it is.  Snoop Dogg and Mos Def perform backed by something called “Hypnotic Brass Ensemble” that sounds like it could be horrifying, and Bashy and Kano joke about the peaceful nature of a perpetually waved white flag while an orchestra for oriental Arabic music plays beneath them.  Damon Albarn’s first-its-a-lullaby-now-it’s-not vocals in “Rhinestone Eyes” whisper “Your Rhinestone eyes look like factories far away”.  Despite Albarn’s limited appearances on this album under the guise of the virtual 2D, each appearance of his is to be cherished thanks to his vocal inspiration, Ray Davies’s “Waterloo Sunset”.

It’s astonishing how little this feels like a Gorillaz album.  With Mos Def and Bobby Womack showing up twice each, Gruff Rhys of Super Furry Animals doing a song with De La Soul, Lou Reed singing a song that I think he must have written, and The Clash’s Mick Jones and Paul Simonon playing guitar and bass in such a way that you’ll only know it’s them thanks to the credit, 2D, Murdock, and the gang don’t do a lot here, but who cares?  The contributors to this album are often at the best they’ve been in their careers.  On the lead single “Stylo”, Mos Def contributes some of his best rapping, and Bobby Womack belts out some of his best singing.  The obligatory song featuring De La Soul after Feel Good Inc.’s success, “Superfast Jellyfish”, becomes more of a delight with each listen thanks to its bizarre shared themes of excitation for breakfast food and the wonderful world of the sea.  “All hail King Neptune and his water-breathers!” commands De La Soul in their second wonderful appearance in a Gorillaz song.

Despite the variety, the album jells perfectly, perhaps even better than the superior Demon Days.  The over-the-top “Superfast Jellyfish” feels perfectly natural following the badass “Stylo”, and “Pirate Jet”, which has the band leaving the taps on for a hundred years, feels like a proper resolution to our confusing trip to the Plastic Beach.  Considering that Damon Albarn started his success in the shitty, but maybe not all that shitty, Britpop band Blur, it’s almost disturbing to see how he’s mastered the art of hip hop perhaps more than anyone else.  You want the true guru of hip hop?  Look no further than the skinny white rocker from Britain.


Published in: on March 11, 2010 at 6:44 AM  Leave a Comment  

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