REVIEW: Gorillaz – Plastic Beach

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One point of view;

Damon Albarn, around the time of announcing the new Gorillaz album described it as “the most poppy album I’ve ever made” and Plastic Beach is exactly that, at its core, Plastic Beach is a fantastic pop album. Albeit one twisted through Damon’s magpie mind and through the lens of its collaborators. As such it becomes a much more expansive, epic collection of songs that transcend the pop genre and move off into a much more wider area.

“Orchestral Intro” throws you off the scent, with its lush orchestration before fading out into the bombastic “Welcome To The Plastic Beach” featuring everybody’s favorite slack jawed, rapidly aging rap-super-hero Snoop Dogg, or whatever name he’s going by these days. He even manages to hold back from saying his own name, a feat rarely achieved in his many songs. “White Flag” plays out like a sea-side riff on the post Vampire Weekend scene mashed together with rap to great effect. Album highlight “Rhinestone Eyes” brings in Albarn’s beat down vocals scratching over simultaneously pumping and whining synth lines before building up to its inevitably epic conclusion. “Stylo” featuring the on fire and still shouty-as-fuck Bobby Womac comes up next followed by the grower of the century “Superfast Jellyfish” with De La Soul making a return to being good/relevant (Choose one).

“Empire Ants” sits around, soothing your brow for 2 and half minutes before its soaring mid point take-over where Little Dragon lends her vocals over layered synths. “Up on melancholy hill, there’s a plastic tree, are you here with me?” yes, “On Melancholy Hill” is the closest we climb towards the ballad, its a sweet, driven little song with its 80’s pop roots fully on show for everyone to see and continues the theme of “An island made up of the entire worlds rubbish” (Presumably, mostly plastic…) where every song fits the theme perfectly, the darkness of that idea and the shine & impeccable polish involved. Title track/Gorillaz classic “Plastic Beach” couples Mick Jones (from The Clash) and Paul Simonon (Hey! He was in The Clash too! I see what they fucking did there, sly bastards) in some glam funkiness brought so far up to date it makes your ears bleed. “To Binge” sways with the weight of its prettiness and “Cloud of Unknowing” brings Bobby from the brink of 80’s electro pop and slaps him down in the middle of a soulful number tailor made for his vocals.

Ending with ominous and curiously evil “Pirate Jet”, Plastic Beach is essentially a concept album done horribly right. Its dark in the way the best pop music always is and it revels in the opportunity to fuck around with the conventions that often make modern pop so dull. It takes the promise of a island made up of plastic and reflects that in its super polished, seemingly superficial and trendy sound choices but behind all that, its a deeply clever album.