Since their popularity of “Clint Eastwood” and “Feel Good Inc.” Gorillaz has left people wondering where they were headed next. The project seemed like at some point, it HAD to fail. Cartoons playing instruments, rapping, and crafting songs has been around since the Archies cashed in on bubblegum pop in the late 1960’s. This year, however, Damon Albarn and Jamie Hewlett’s cartoon foursome has transformed from a gimmicky type of pop/hip hop fusion novelty act into a legitimate songwriting force.
Plastic Beach was one of the most heavily anticipated albums of 2010 and it certainly doesn’t disappoint. There are numerous A-list guests that will be addressed momentarily but it would be important to first point out the variety of styles of music on Plastic Beach .
The album is no longer in the style of rapping/reggae-ish bass/crazy synths. Although those are some elements seen throughout, the best way to describe the album is a cohesion of sound. There’s a guest spot from the Hypnotic Brass Ensemble who lays down some funky horns, while Albarn’s voice smothered in a robotic autotune on “Welcome to the Plastic Beach.” Oh, and that song features Snoop Dogg sounding like he just inhaled an ounce of the Chronic. The entire album features tracks so well crafted like that one, that it’s hard to single out album highlights.
The entire record seems like a jam session that lasted three decades. Guests include Lou Reed (“Some Kind of Nature”), one half of the original Clash members- Mick Jones and Paul Simonon (“Plastic Beach”), Bobby Womack (numerous tracks), and long time collaborators Mos Def (the albums first single “Stylo” and “Sweepstakes”) and De La Soul.
The guests, though, are more than just names that Albarn can throw on the credits. They actually add more than just their voices or production that we’ve come to know and love, they bring attitude. Lou Reed brings a sort of “f*ck you” attitude to “Some Kind of Nature.” As Plastic Beach is supposed to partly criticize disposability, Lou Reed sings, of snarls rather, about loving plastics. Albarn’s work with these music luminaries makes a good album a great one, and one that fans of just about any genre would enjoy.
Key Tracks: “Plastic Beach”, “Some Kind of Nature”, “Superfast Jellyfish”
Recommended if you like: Daft Punk, Beck, and The Good, The Bad & The Queen.
WPGU Music Staff Rating: W-P-G-½
W = Poor
W-P = Fair
W-P-G = Great
W-P-G-U = An instant classic!