Gorillaz - Plastic Beach

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Ultimately, where Plastic Beach ranks among its predecessors is an argument for the fans. Undeniable, however, is that it is the most cinematic and chilled-out Gorillaz album to date.

It’s hard to believe that it’s been nearly a decade since the world’s most successful virtual band, Gorillaz, entered public consciousness. The crew’s eponymous debut was an unexpected gem, with some seriously heavy Rap-Rock grooves – aided by producer Dan “The Automator” Nakamura, and a number of outstanding guest spots (most notably Del tha Funkee Homosapien’s). Some brushed aside the 2001 effort as a “cute side project” by former Blur front man Damon Albarn and illustrator Jamie Hewlett. But, in truth, the duo had greater aspirations for Gorillaz than just a one-off job. 2005’s outstanding Demon Days was an incredible follow-up that followed no format: it was a conclave of Pop, Rock, Electronica, and Hip Hop, with producer Dangermouse behind the boards – and another all-star cast which included De La Soul, Boots Riley, and even Dennis Hopper.


Five years later, the Gorillaz machine continues to roll with the group’s third full-fledged release, Plastic Beach. Fans of the group will be particularly excited to hear that Albarn, who has had a hand in musically shaping all of Gorillaz releases, has decided to not enlist the use of an outside producer. As such, any fan ought to know that when it comes to a Gorillaz release, expectations ought to be left at the door – because they’re in for something completely different.

In 2007, Albarn and Hewlett’s collaborated on a Operatic stage adaptation of a 16th Century Chinese novel, Journey to the West. So it’s not surprising in the least that Plastic Beach has its share of orchestral sounds, as displayed on the appropriately-titled “Orchestral Intro.” Clocking in at just over a minute, the track’s cinematic feel, courtesy of rich strings and horns (the latter perhaps signifying a ship leaving port?) lays the groundwork for “Welcome to the World of the Plastic Beach,” which pairs Snoop Dogg and the Hypnotic Brass Ensemble – continuing the band’s penchant for pairing unlikely artists.

When Snoop utters the album’s first words – “Gorillaz and the Boss Dogg / Planet of the Apes,” it becomes an immediate concern that D-oh-double-G will overshadow the cut with his larger-than-life persona. But it’s the contrary, as Snoop’s contribution could be likened more to a backing instrument rather than a lyricist. His rich voice serves to punctuate the song’s instrumentals, which allows it to exist on its own, rather than be identified as a “Snoop Dogg song.” The orchestrations continue with the very eastern-sounding “White Flag.” U.K. Grime rappers Kano and Bashy explode into a quirky back-and-forth on the song, which is bookended by The Lebanese National Orchestra for Oriental Arab Music’s flute/string sections.

“Rhinestone Eyes” takes Plastic Beach into Electronica territory with stabbing synths, and attains the sinister quirkiness that Gorillaz have mastered over the years. The group’s lead vocalist, 2D (voiced by Albarn), makes his first appearance here, singing his nebulous thoughts that are always left to interpretation: “I'm a scary gargoyle on a tower / That you made with plastic power / Your rhinestone eyes are like factories far away / When the paralytic dreams that we all seem to keep / Drive on engines till they weep / With future pixels in factories far away / So call the mainland from the beach / Your heart is now washed up in bleach / The waves are rising for this time of year / And nobody knows what to do with the heat / Under sunshine pylons we'll meet while rain is falling like rhinestones from the sky”

The album’s lead single, the danceable and trippy “Stylo,” is another electronically-charged outing. Synth-laden percussion is paired perfectly with Mos Def’s low-fi rhymes. Just as is the case with Snoop, Mos’ vocals play a backing role. The main attraction here is legendary '60s and '70s singer/songwriter Bobby Womack, whose powerful wailing is something to behold.

Gruff Rhys and De La Soul join in on “Superfast Jellyfish” , a cheerfully-animated marriage that’s a spiritual successor to Gorillaz’ “Rock the House,” while Electronic band Little Dragon assists on the dreamy “Empire Ants.” Rocker Lou Reed helps craft an unexpected gem with his lighthearted song-talking on “Some Kind of Nature,” which adds a bit of soft rock to Plastic Beach’s already-expansive musical repertoire. “On Melancholy Hill” is an '80s-infused delight, while the title track has a touch of Surf Rock and Spaghetti Western influences, and features a high-profile union of Mick Jones and Paul Simonon.

Complaints regarding Plastic Beach are minor, particularly considering its astounding ambitions. While not flawless in execution like Demon Days, Gorillaz’ third effort is, nonetheless, brilliant much more often than not. Particularly, Mos Def is uninteresting on “Sweepstakes,” the rapper’s second contribution to the album which drags on for far too long (“White Flag” could stand to be a touch shorter as well). Also, in an instance of botched track list sequencing, “Cloud of Unknowing” is the penultimate track, though clearly ought to close out the show. Instead, “Pirate Jet” has the last slot, making the otherwise excellent song seem like an afterthought.

Ultimately, where Plastic Beach ranks among its predecessors is an argument for the fans. Undeniable, however, is that it is the most cinematic and chilled-out Gorillaz album to date. No, there’s no smash hit like a “Clint Eastwood” or “Feel Good Inc.,” and nothing like the most underappreciated dance track of all time, “Dare” – but who says there has to be? If there’s one thing that the virtual quartet of 2D, Russel, Noodle and Murdoc aren’t about, it’s rules. So set aside expectations, and enjoy a record not quite like anything else you’re ever likely to hear.

46 Comments

  • G.O.D.

    yeah, this albums is pretty wack compared to the last 2.

  • Maj

    Coulda been betta when compared to the first 2 albums. Best track has 2 be White flag, amazing lyrics from bash nd kano. 4 good songs on it at best

  • moneypenny7

    Review? Ehhhh......PLASTIC BEACH IS ALL CONCEPT. It's overly intelligent. PLASTIC LOVER MOTHERFUCKERS

  • IVIARSHALL

    This album is really great, everything mixes together and it is indeed intelligently composed. A few tracks are really disappointing, but in fact this is no real threat to the albums quality.

  • Eldonius

    I really like the gorrilaz but this shit is wack.

  • chepe5150

    This album blows! Has like 2 decent tracks... the rest is wack. I tried to listen to it more than just once but its just not good. Phuck all you gorillaz dick riders that can't admit that this album straight up sucks!

    • RG

      Could not agree more, this album is overblown bullshit, just 'cause they have some big name collaborators everybody is blowing their load...this album is basically boring, i deleted pretty much all of it after a couple of listens....

  • FoThaLoveOfMusic

    Unlike most other reviewers that gave this a very low rating i enjoyed the gorrillaz first 2 albums and i have most of their material to date. Their first album was a great genre breaking attempt at pop stardom which i thought to be a good direction for mainstream music, finally staring again to embrace creativity and substance. By demon days i was still a fan even though the album wasn't completely to my taste but furthermore a very good effort. Their latest attempt at making good music 'Plastic Beach' is completely off route in what direction the gorrillaz were heading with their first album,with no more than 3 decent tracks almost its like they were unhappy at being given the chance to change mainstream bullshit pop music around today and have made this introverted album which (sad to say) "Tries Too Hard At Not Trying Hard" To be honest its as if they decided to make an underground album but let subjects from a parkinsons disese test group sing the choruses, with a number of tracks having the same chorus that goes "plastic beach mumble mumble´ plastic beach" i for one am tired of these 'trying too hard to be different' and nursery rhyme hook artists Lady Gaga etc, if u are also then make your own decision before buying this album dont just buy the album beacuse they are 'the gorrillaz'..... poor effort guys! come back soon

  • MATTINGO

    BRUCE wILLIS IS SUCH A BAD ASS. LOL

  • hiphopscout

    http://www.reverbnation.com/artist/artist_videos/659615?sel_song_id=3312743&autoplay=1

  • Powernupe

    The album is good, but certainly not great. In my opinion, there are four, maybe five really strong tracks, a few mediocre, and a couple pretty bad. I can't get into the track with De La Soul, or the two with Mos Def. Broken and To Binge are really hot tracks. I much prefer the new album by Broken Bells, which is smooth from front to finish without any fast-forward/skip tracks like those on Plastic Beach.

  • J90

    Nice album, Gorillaz always bring at least some top tracks. That white flag track is niiice, but I mean c'mon it was gonna be with Bashy and Kano on the mic! U.K. Grime stand up! -+-

  • DaDoc

    lol first of i think its funny dat the mf (BLANKI) who downloaded the cd for free is complaining... this cd is not as hip-hop oriented as there previouse 2 cd's (Gorillaz & Demon Days) but the cd is great. First time i listened to Plastic Beach i was disappointed cause of that but the CD is definitely good if you like other musical genres besides Hip-Hop These are the my fav on Plastic Beach Empire Ants (listen to the whole thing cause it starts off slow but then...) Broken

  • VJNICE

    Massively intelligent album. Cohesive, almost as if it were a concept album. Maybe the best gorillaz album yet (as a whole album).

  • willsee

    Paul Simonon, the bassist of The Clash, not Paul Simon of Simon & Garfunkel. This album is the Gorillaz most cohesive release. It flows unlike any of their other albums. There aren't any instant hits like Feel Good Inc or 19-2000, but as a whole, it's a very strong piece. And I for one love Sweepstakes.

  • Guns and/or Roses

    I agree that this album was good, and kept up the tradition of prior quality, but it seems like they aren't sure what direction they're going in. They would do well to move forward in the newer directions they point out in this album: http://www.gunsandorroses.com/2010/03/gorillaz-wash-upon-plastic-beach.html

  • Flawl3$$

    It's a good album but not quite on the same level as the first 2 albums.. 3/5

    • Flawl3$$

      I just didn't find it as enjoyable as a whole compared to the first 2 albums. If you look at the first 2 albums theirs songs on their that are classics and i could listen to on repeat for weeks here i just don't feel the same way about them maybe it needs more time to grow on me.

    • Raz

      reasons? cuz i disagree

  • dope

    hated it at first but listening to it for the past couple of days this album is fantastic and really grows on you and the songs stick to you like ''Broken'' or ''Rhinestone Eyes''. it takes time. so i don't agree with the rating album is easily 4.5/5 best album in 2010 i heard so far.

  • It's Um

    and yes it was brilliantly made.

  • It's Um

    I got the album and I have to say he somewhat right, there wasn't much of an outstanding track on here like demon dayz. The single of course is nice, and there might be some memorible tracks, but I have to say the ending wasn't quiet as nice like their last. Sweepstakes should have been left out, and pirate jet, this is a mellow album with at times groovy in the middle and end. It is a 3.5 (they really need to let us give half x's in the rating).

  • I'm at work and bored

    No Del again? that sucks

  • MYLIE

    IS THIS REVIEW FUCKING CRAZY? this album is 4.5/5 and it ranks right up there with s/t and Demon Days. y'all really don't know what the fuck y'all talking about.

  • Nate5911

    Rating it 5 because I saw a 1 star rating.. wtf? I think its closer to a 4 star album, a good album with some replay value, but not great. That said, best work of '10 yet.

  • LAfine

    http://www.reverbnation.com/artist/artist_videos/659615?sel_song_id=3407393&autoplay=1

  • ThaDrizzle

    Well written review but for real u guys gotta stop giving every album 3.5 or just get rid of the ratings alltogether

  • blanki

    the album sucks i downloaded it for free listened to it once hated it definately not going to buy it and i dont wanna lose any further time of my life so that it grows on me the production is over the top making the presence of so many mcs and singers even more pointless the lyrics are incoherent even the slightest musical inspiration absent and the virtual band is just repeating the same format of the previous albums it doesnt even sound modern or avant-garde-actually 2001 seems to me a long time ago and this record sounds as if the clock stopped ticking back then i dont think this crap is hiphop either so why do you review it? PS if you have heard stylo dont be misguided it is a decent rack with a clever videoclip but it is the ONLY decent track in this boring, uninspired and destined to flop after the first week of release album:) blanki.

    • DaDoc

      well put MYLIE - u downloaded the cd for free so at least have the curtsy of giving it a 2 and for people who don't like different types of music "don't comment on it"

    • MYLIE

      shut your ass up. If you hate this album then you have no sense in music and you need to go out more.

  • VA Dos

    Im giving this a 5 to counter the unacceptable rating DX gave it. I cosign the majority on this site saying you give everything a 3.5. Are you afraid to catch flack for giving a bad review? Come on now...you are getting shit from us now for giving TOO MANY average reviews. Have some Identity HipHop DX, have an opinion...this is music. If you dont like it, say so. If you give such critical acclaim to an album, then rate it a 3.5, you lose all credibility. I think this album is on a whole other level. Its barely any hip hop/rap on here except single. But its great music and grows on you as you keep listening to it. Great concept.

  • krime

    “Gorillaz and the Boss Dogg / Planet of the Apes,” UGHH that shit goes hard!! Gorillaz is on anotgher level... on some real shit... I havent really started fucking with them till recently but i got into all their shit... What i noticed is that they kinda give every album a different feel.. At the same time, they still add the elements of hiphop, rock, electronic, & all types of music... Most dudes on this site wouldnt fuck with that shit... Plastic beach is my shit!!

  • Deebo Detroit

    everything on this site gets a 3 and 1/2

  • R KELLY

    DX im getting sick of these reviews you give everythin a 3 or 31/2 star rating it sucks make your mind up and actually like something or dislike it this album is great and definitely worth a few listens out of 18 there are a couple of ok songs but most of it is really good after a few listens

  • Holier then thou

    In the music video, they're running and shooting at police and the girl gets shot...this wouldn't survive as a rap video. I think cartoons get away with shit reality dreams they can. Excellent CD by the way. Its one of those CDs that have to grow on you though.

  • C-arson

    Hey Slava go slap yourself!

  • gmax

    I like the single, a lot of the stuff is too weird. Def. a group I respect though.

  • Json

    I haven't heard the album myself but just like DAMN SONSON said, how do you write a review stating how excellent something is then give it a half ass rating? I use this site as a guide to purchase and not purchase new material and more and more I find your reviews contradicting one another. I appreciate the fact DX reviews a lot of new material and it helps me discover new artists but please whoever the hell is reviewing the music STOP CONTRADICTING YOURSELF! With that said, I will peep this on Itunes tonight and figure out if the entire CD is worth a purchase or if only a couple songs are worthy of a download. Peace in the Middle East! p.s. Thanks Hiphopdx for not mentioning that fool Wacka Flacka in every other article like allhiphop.com That shitz gets ridiculous over there. They keep that fool relevant for no good damn reason at all! With that said, please review his CD just so I get a feel for what a true hiphop website thoughts are on it. Just make sure it's not so contradicting!

  • BALLS

    Yo...SPREAD THE WORD; KIDZ IN THE HALL ALBUM SUPER, SUPER, SUPERFUCKIN WACK!!! NALEDGE MAKES ME WANNA PULL MY HAIR OUT!! THESE DUDES ALMOST REMIND OF KANYE WEST KNOCKOFFS. THEY'RE TRYING TO GO TOO COMMERICAL SOUNDING, THEY'RE BASICALLY SELLING OUT, BUT THEY'RE SELLING OUT FOR NO REASON BECUZ THEY AIN'T SELLIN ANY RECORDS!!! SO THAT MAKES EM LOOK EVEN WORSE, HAHA!! LISTEN TO THEIR SINGLE, AND TELL ME NALEDGE DOESN'T SOUND LIKE KANYE?? SHIT IS ALMOST LAUGHABLE, IT'S SO OBVIOUS....LIKE, IM ALSO THINKING "HOW COULD NALEDGE EVEN BE OKAY WITH HIMSELF SOUNDING IDENTICAL TO KANYE?" THESE DUDES AIN'T EVEN HIP HOP ANYMORE, THEY'RE WACK!!

  • damn sonson

    all the praise, and it gets a three and a half? you called it brilliant, and it gets a three and a half? this site used to be the only one i could go to for legit reviews, nowadays ya'll confusing the shit outta me. at least give it that half, come on