Gorillaz ‘Plastic Beach’ – Review

9 Mar

Gorrilaz were meant to eradicate the public’s need to know everything about their stars. They are a fictional, cartoon band with invented back stories who are hidden in silhouette live. And yet the longer the charade goes on the more it seems obvious that it’s impossible to hide in the 21st century. The more Damon Albarn adds to the Gorillaz myth the more it actually reveals about him, and the more you wonder why he doesn’t just ‘come out’ so to speak. The fact that he is actively promoting this album only makes it seem more bizarre that he still hides behind a cartoon character that Jamie Hewlett, his creative partner, is sick of drawing.

Obviously Albarn still believes the concept has something to offer, and so for now he is sticking to it. Therefore ‘Plastic Beach’, the follow-up to 2005’s ‘Demon Day’s is finally with us, and it’s a great success.The story goes something along the lines of this…The cartoon characters have ended up on an island made up of rubbish, floating out at sea as far away as possible from human life.  It seems the band are building a new, better world on the waste of the old world. ‘Respect the island here, no stealing/ and no religion either, no freaking’. Truth be told, past track four I lost the thread of the story but it’s good that it isn’t essential to enjoyment of the album.

Whilst an album of this scale and ambition is impressive it is too long to be considered a complete triumph. The album passes the hour mark with ease and although there is nothing on here that stands out as filler a bit more editing would have made this a more digestible record. It’s probably for the best then that duets with The Horrors and Bee Gees didn’t make the cut, as brilliant as they sound like they would have been.

Guests who did survive include Lou Reed, Bobby Womack, Mos Def, Kano, Snoop Dog and Mark E Smith. This is easily Gorillaz most star-studded album to date, Albarn’s familiar voice doesn’t even come in until track four.  I’m not sure how all these guests play into the concept Albarn has outlined for the album, maybe the all live on The Plastic Beach as well.

So who delivers and which doesn’t? Well Mark E. Smith is brilliant on an otherwise forgettable track, Lou Reed is typically great on a song called ‘Some Kind of Nature’ and Bobby Womack is better still on first single ‘Stylo’ which has really grown on me recently. But I would say the best song here is the one that features no guests. ‘On melancholy hill’ is a delicate ballad that reminds me of Albarn’s brilliant way with a melody. It’s so good it almost makes me wish that this was a more traditional, straight forward guitar album. It feels like it’s been ages since we’ve had one from Albarn and this song reminds you just how good at it he is. He said he wanted this to be the perfect pop album but maybe he’s forgotten that he already made one and the chances of him bettering ‘Parklife’ are slim indeed.

‘Plastic Beach’ may just be the best Gorillaz album yet, it may even be the best album Damon Albarn has made since ‘Parklife’. There is nothing on here as brilliant as ‘Clint Eastwood’, ‘Feel Good Inc’ or ‘Dirty Harry’ but it’s a record in the traditional sense, one that flows from song to song, with a start and an end. Even so it is still a very modern, even futuristic album that asks questions about pop, celebrity, the enviroment and society over some great music. The questions may be a bit shaky and the concept of a cartoon band may no longer work as it did ten years ago but for all it’s flaws ‘Plastic Beach’ will be an album to remember.



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