Review of Gorillaz’ Plastic Beach

Hey everyone, it’s Rylan doing the whole guest star action on FernDawg’s blog and while I am by all means, not a hardcore electronica buff, I’ve been asked to review The Gorillaz’ third full album release Plastic Beach for you all today.  Being a fan of the Gorillaz, I purchased the album on it’s release and immediately tried to find my favorite song, or at least tried to identify the songs that would be the hits.  During the first listen it was apparent that this was going to be a much different offering than what we previously heard from the animated supergroup and that this would be one of those albums that I would need to digest a few times.
Gorillaz - Plastic Beach

Track by Track
1. Orchestral Intro – A beautiful track which is exactly what it says it is. It feels like the beginning of an epic album.

2. Welcome to the World of the Plastic Beach (feat Snoop Dogg) – Snoop Dogg turned in his gangsta colors for the big 70’s style party master pimp hat a long time ago and this track is no different. However, it sounds like the intro to a Snoop Dogg album instead of a Gorillaz one.

3. White Flag (feat Bashy, Kano) – Starts off with a nice Arabic orchestral intro and turns into a hip hop song that sounds a little too peppy. The Arabian motif returns later in the track over some 8-bit video game stylings.

4. Rhinestone Eyes – The first track where we hear Albarn’s voice and after the first two tracks and frankly, I’ve kind of missed it mainly because this is the first track that sounds like The Gorillaz though it’s a bit more poppy.

5. Stylo (feat Mos Def and Bobby Womack) – Sounds like a Men Without Hats single and turns into a semi-Verve Remixed (great stuff by the way) track with bits of soul singer Bobby Womack thrown in. Womack, who can absolutely wail, isn’t wasted at all in the song though Mos Def is kinda filtered and hard to understand.

6. Superfast Jellyfish (feat Gruff and De La Soul) – Nice hip hop track that reminisces of the feel of 19-2000 from the Gorillaz first album kind of mixed in with a bit of DangerDoom.

7. Empire Ants (feat Little Dragon) – A nice dreamy break from the more previous hip-hop tracks that turns a bit Euro-Ibiza later on.

8. Glitter Freeze (feat Mark E Smith) – A synth heavy track that works as the backdrop in an 80’s sci-fi flick or a Las Vegas magician’s act. Oh you think that’s a bad thing?

9. Some Kind of Nature (feat Lou Reed) – A kind of forgettable track unless you’re into Lou Reed. There’s some nice parts but I can’t help but think that it would’ve been a better track without him since Albarn’s parts are great.

10. On Melancholy Hill – Very poppy, sugary song that sounds like the title theme to an early-days Nickelodeon cartoon. I’m envisioning koalas waving to each while waving to that little dude who lives on the universe’s most boring planet looks down upon them from space.

11. Broken – A nice track but I couldn’t get into it kinda like Law and Order with Anthony Anderson and the dude from Six Feet Under.

12. Sweepstakes (feat Mos Def) – Mos Def is awesome and is more heavily featured on this track than Stylo. An odd track that doesn’t really go anywhere musically though and gets really jumbled up at the end.

13. Plastic Beach (feat Mick Jones and Paul Simonon) – Right now all the stops are being pulled with the guest stars and this beautiful track features two members of the Clash, though you can’t tell they’re there at all. This sounds like vintage Gorillaz above all others tracks.

14. To Binge (feat Little Dragon) – Cute little coffee shop-esque track that reminisces of the little interludes in Napoleon Dynamite.

15. Cloud of Unknowing (feat Bobby Womack and Sinfonia) – Womack returns to deliver this torch song which seems like out of a dream sequence. When you think it’s going somewhere, it ends abruptly.

16. Pirate Jet – The final track on the album is short and sweet and just fades out like a song they forgot to finish.

Overall impression: B-
Plastic Beach represents a definite shift from the first two albums’ dystopian future feel and I picture the Gorillaz’ iconic jeep vehicle arriving to a party, which may or may not be a good thing depending how you like your Gorillaz. Another musical shift is the definitely the emphasis on synths compared to the previous albums which were more organic sounding. While the songs here are inherently good, there’s no one track that stands out as a definite hit or catch. Some of it comes off as a little too conventional pop with the later tracks sounding a little undercooked. A lot more guest stars are featured on this album than previous ones and it’s a lot more hit or miss this time around.  Overall a decent album but doesn’t reach the same power that Demon Days and especially the self-titled debut album held.

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