New Gorillaz album weird, but indescribably good
With their third studio album, the virtual band Gorillaz has outdone itself in nearly every category. The creativity and broad range of the man behind the curtain, Damon Albarn, truly come out as his brainchild, Gorillaz, evolves into something totally new with the release of “Plastic Beach.”
Sounding like Pink Floyd in a futuristic setting, Gorillaz have a way of fitting every genre into an album that couldn’t possibly be put into a genre. Featuring artists from Snoop Dogg to Paul Simon, “Plastic Beach” manages to keep things varied yet still have a clear movement through the tracks that allows the album to flow from start to finish.
“Plastic Beach” begins with an orchestral introduction reminiscent of the kind of score that would accompany a 1970s helicopter ride. This leads into track two, a crescendo and a drop of everything but an organ, drums and a funky bass. Snoop Dogg’s drawl slows the Gorillaz down to a tempo they rarely accomodate. The brass band makes even Snoop sound classy as he introduces the listener to the new world Albarn set out to create: “Welcome to the world of the Plastic Beach.”
The third track, “White Flag,” continues the trend, juxtaposing the Lebanese National Orchestra for Oriental Arabic Music’s soft flute and strings with the harsher grime flows of British rappers Kano and Bashy.
“Rhinestone Eyes” is an eerie synthesizer-filled song in which Albarn seems more to speak his lyrics than sing them.
Not far behind is the single “Stylo,” featuring Bobby Womack and rapper Mos Def.
Mos Def’s monotone rapping is punctuated by Albarn’s singsong chorus. Topped off with Womack’s half-yells, the song has more soul than any other Gorillaz track while still keeping the formula of weirdness the band has perfected.
The bizarre “Superfast Jellyfish” is a cartoonish rap song all about breakfast cereal with Albarn still singing the cheery chorus between De La Soul and Gruff Rhys’ baritone verses.
Featuring Little Dragon, “Empire Ants” is a slow, hypnotizing and entrancing song that turns into electro-pop halfway through. The transition is quick but smooth, as listeners go from eyes closed and nodding to eyes closed and dancing in less than three minutes.
“Glitterfreeze” is another dance beat, this time over a wailing siren that would seem appropriate in a Quentin Tarantino movie. Albarn speaks thrice on the track, each time making less sense than the last.
“Some Kind of Nature” is upbeat and electronic but is made by Lou Reed’s vocals that are cut up in an almost robotic manner. Albarn mimics him in his singsong voice, keeping the lyrics short but the song interesting.
One of only four tracks not featuring guest artists, “On Melancholy Hill” is a dreamy pop track that floats into the similarly dreamy “Broken.”
Mos Def returns with the Hypnotic Brass Ensemble on the track “Sweepstakes.” The funky drums and horns sound celebratory as the rapper declares, “You’re a winner” over the track.
Perhaps the most out-of-the-ordinary guest is none other than Simonon. Featured on the futuristic title track, his vocals are subtle and layered with Albarn’s, making it hard to distinguish him. Maybe the only mistake with this album is not fully taking advantage of Paul Simonon when given the opportunity.
“Cloud of Unknowing” seems like an old Pink Floyd song. Womack returns to monologue over dramatic synthesizers, leading into a building track, “Pirate Jet.” Organ and spring sounds make this weird tune a perfect end to an indescribable album.
A wide ranging, multi-style music project that somehow manages to keep a distinctly unique, hypnotic sound throughout, “Plastic Beach” shows the master, Albarn, excelling at his craft.
Artist- Gorillaz Album- Plastic Beach Record Label- Parlophone/ Virgin 5 out 5 Pitchforks
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