GORILLAZ – Plastic Beach (2010)

Gorillaz, the brainchild of former Blur frontman Damon Albarn, is a band that could only exists here, in the 21st century. Oh sure, they’re not the first virtual band (Alvin and the Chipmunks, anyone?), but they are the first one to take a serious (read: not novelty) approach to popular music; as a (faux) collective, Gorillaz have culled their influences together from all across the pop music spectrum, and have assembled them into two irreverent collections of material (2001’s Gorillaz and 2005’s Demon Days). All this, plus an elaborate set of fictional biographies and promotional material means that Gorillaz were bred, not born, to thrive in the digital age.

To begin with, I applaud Albarn for making good use of an orchestral intro (the first song is actually unceremoniously named Orchestral Intro, which downplays how well it actually works as a lead in to the album as a whole); after what These New Puritans did with their intro on Hidden, it’s nice to know that people still are capable of using that device in a positive manner. The album’s first real song, Welcome To The World of Plastic Beach (featuring the unimitable Snoop Dogg), has great flow to it and a vast, expansive feel; when Plastic Beach works best (as in the aforementioned track, Glitter Freeze, Cloud of Unknowing), these are the qualities it exhibits: laid-back momentum towards an endless horizon.

Sadly, there are multiple songs on the album that don’t seem to go anywhere (or at least, not anywhere intriguing); the chief offenders here are the two main singles, Stylo and Superfast Jellyfish. The latter is simply annoying with its cartoonish verses and samples; it belies the sincere pop that the rest of the album exemplifies when its on the right course. The former is simply a weak song; as a lead single, it lacks the drive of Clint Eastwood and the sexiness of Feel Good Inc., and is easily the least of these by comparison.

Plastic Beach, when it works, is an album that proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that mood can do more for pop music than spectacle. This coming from a “band” that consists of four primate-anime hybrids, is quite an accomplishment. Nevertheless, Albarn (just as he did with past Gorillaz albums) fails to create an album of consistently memorable songs. Like its predecessors, Plastic Beach is notable most for its glittering highlights, and not for superiority through cohesiveness as a whole. That being said, Plastic Beach’s are among the best material the “band” has ever presented us with, so Plastic Beach is, by that definition, Gorillaz’s best album. But alas, by that same definition, it’s also imperfect, a flawed career best. Perhaps sometime in the future, we’ll get an out-and-out masterpiece from this virtual ensemble, but that day is not today.

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One Response to “GORILLAZ – Plastic Beach (2010)”

  1. […] mesh with understated emotional rawness that the rest of the album conveys. Man, what is it with lead singles recently? And while we’re at it, what is it with songs named Swim in […]

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