Plastic Beach, Gorillaz, 2010
This is a re-post of my album review for Plastic Beach originally published on my previous blog.
The consistent moody sounds coming from the Gorillaz took a little turn with this album. I’m listening to a song on D-Sides (2007) called Hong Kong and it really shows the versatility of the Gorillaz. They have been able to mesh hip hop and electronica with British rock vocals to create their sometimes eerie music for a while now. I’m not trying to limit their music to my choice words and labels. They can do just about anything including the oriental strings in Hong Kong (D-Sides), dark hip hop including their breakthrough Clint Eastwood (featuring Del tha Funkee Homosapien) or anything in between. Plastic Beach feels like a completely different type of album for some reason. It could have something to do with the guest appearances (Snoop Dogg, Mos Def, Bobby Womack, Paul Simon, Paul Simon, Little Dragon and Lou Reed). Also, the fact that they have a much more electric sound than before could confuse people. I posted something on Facebook a while ago about this album. A couple of my friends and I wrote about how this album was terrible. I will be the first one to admit that I didn’t give the album a fair shot at impressing me. Since I wrote that on Facebook, I have listened to the album about 500 more times and I will completely eat my words at this point. I should know better than that.
First let me say that Plastic Beach is a good album. They really suck you into their world. To give the album a fair shot, do this little experiment. Listen to the album once from beginning to end. What I will imagine is that the first song after the intro, Welcome To The World Of The Plastic Beach (featuring Snoop Dogg) will put a bad taste in your mouth. At least it did for me. The second part of this experiment is to listen to the album by skipping to song 3, White Flag and listening to the full album from there on. When you listen to the album starting with White Flag, the album seems more consistent and cohesive. After I decided to skip the song w/ Snoop, the album made more sense to me. No disrespect to Snoop, but I’m sure that he knows how much sequencing songs can affect your perception of the music. Personally, it also didn’t help that the song w/ Snoop was the intro into their world of the Plastic Beach.
Plastic Beach is like a dark and moody utopian comic strip of tracks. That’s a no brainer since the Gorillaz never really show their faces. Instead, they have the street art/manga inspired characters represent them. It makes the Gorillaz videos and album art interesting from day one. It is another thing I really like about the them. While most musicians try to get their face on camera as much as possible, the Gorillaz have removed their personal physical appearance and replaced it with artwork/animation. Also, it seems like they are open to trying just about anything. For Plastic Beach, they created a complete world to explore on their website. You can create a username and play their interactive game, if that’s your thing. I'm not big into that, but I gave it a shot to see what it's about.
Criticism of reality is always present in utopian dreams and Plastic Beach definitely criticizes our world by contrasting the reality in their world. The music isn't only dark and moody though. At times it's upbeat, very electronic and has a diverse range of instruments (strings, keyboards, synthesizers, guitars, etc). Plastic Beach is like an off-kilter feel good album, contrary to the popular sounds of 2010. They do this by mixing in funny lyrics or light hearted songs, but it is to now be expected from the Gorillaz. Who wants to hear this group try to reproduce their previous successes?..not me.
White Flag (feat. Kano, Bashy & the Lebanese National Orchestra for oriental Arabic Music), Rhinestone Eyes, Stylo (feat. Bobby Womack & Mos Def), Superfast (feat. Gruff Rhys & De La Soul), Empire Ants (feat. Little Dragon), Glitter Freeze (feat. Mark E. Smith), Some Kind Of Nature (feat. Lou Reed), On Melancholy Hill, Broken, Plastic Beach (feat. Mick Jones & Paul Simon), To Binge (feat. Little Dragon) and Pirate Jet.