Welcome to the Plastic Beach: A Gorillaz Review
By Eric Stuckart
Who would’ve thought that after a decade that we’d still be listening to new music from the Gorillaz? The pet project of Blur frontman Damon Albarn and comic book artist Jamie Hewlitt (Tank Girl) seemed originally a way for Albarn to get himself out of the spotlight that Blur afforded him, but it seemed to do anything but. And with the latest album, Plastic Beach, it finds him sitting in the producer’s chair as well.
On a whole, this is the first Gorillaz project that actually seems to flow together from song to song, rather than a series of vignettes stitched together. Unlike prior exercises, this one will take awhile before the pure brilliance and catchy nature really sinks in, and by that point, you’ll find yourself singing along to the songs’ quirky melodies and offbeat lyrics.
Opening with a symphonic intro that bleeds into what can be best described as slinky 70s-era funk featuring a rap by Snoop Dogg. The bottom drops out halfway through to give way to a sharp bassline and vocoded backing singers, sounding both retro and futuristic at the same time.
This approach continues throughout the album; Albarn seems perfectly comfortable throwing convention out the window to satisfy every whim and fancy with the wide-eyed wonder of a child. Dub music and oriental flutes? Why not. 1980s dance beats brushing shoulders with Mos Def and soul legend Bobby Womack? Let’s do it!. The amazing part is how well everything blends together. On paper it sounds like a disaster, but to listen to it sounds like a genius at work.
While the album does get a little long in the tooth towards the end—it could have quite possibly used someone to cut maybe a track or three from the final cut—that doesn’t take away from the fact that Albarn keeps getting more and more impressive with each album’s release. And I have a feeling that he’s just getting started. Let’s hope so.