New Music: Gorillaz – Plastic Beach

18 03 2010

Gorillaz third release is every bit as genre-shattering as the first one

It’s the time of year where I get to write more about new music than the older stuff that just happens to be popping through my computer speakers, and that is something to be excited about.  Just this week new albums from Gorillaz and Broken Bells (more on them later) dropped new albums, and new cuts from MGMT, The National, Erykah Badu, Band of Horses, and Nas and Damien Marley are all expected before May.  Not to mention Drake, LCD Soundsystem, and The Arcade Fire all expected out before the end of the year, plus whispers of a new Radiohead album (SHH! they can hear you thinking about it).

The third release from Gorillaz, Plastic Beach, is pretty much what you expect from Damon Albarn and his animated company; which is the unexpected. Sometimes I think Gorillaz try to be what people 50 years ago thought music would be in the future, but as always the stupid people were wrong about the future and it turned out to be really damn good.  One of the best things about Gorillaz are the collaborations, and even though I think Del tha Funky Homosapien should be a mainstay of the band (his futuristic rhymes are perfect for Gorillaz’ style of music, check out Battlesong), Snoop Dogg, Mos Def, Paul Simon, Lou Reed and others are all great on this album in the respect that they had the freedom to express themselves AS themselves, rather then trying to fit the Gorillaz mold (whatever the hell that is).

This album is the epitome of the type of musical diversity Gorillaz have been able to achieve since their first album came out in 2001.  The first six songs of the album (excluding the one-minute-long orchestral intro) are almost all of my favorites on the album, so Plastic Beach definitely starts stronger than it finishes, but many albums do, and that certainly isn’t to say that this is an incomplete album.  Given the plethora of musical styles engaged in this album, there will be a song or two that you’ll want to skip over, but for me, it just depends on the mood I’m in.

The album starts in a hip-hop phase with guest-spots from Snoop, Mos Def, Kano, Bashy, Gruff Rhys, and De La Soul all in the first six songs.  Also in the mix with those songs is one of my favorites Rhinestone Eyes. It starts out with a funky electro-groove, and then insert Albarn’s sing-song talk delivery (which is hard to appreciate at first) for the first verse.  This is where the techno-pop really kicks in, and you realize this album is something different then you thought it was.   This is a great club song and a great song to zone out to at the same time, which to me almost seems impossible, but I love this song no matter where or when I’m listening to it.

Sweepstakes with Mos Def and The Hypnotic Brass Ensemble is one part avant-garde  brass band, a bit of trippy echo effects, and a good helping of Mos Def, which is always a good combination as far as I’m concerned.  I mentioned before how much I loved the way Del tha Funky Homosapien complimented/made the Gorillaz sound, but I think Mos Def pushes the originality envelope in a similar manner, and both songs featuring Mos are favorites on the album.

It’s disappointing to know there probably will not be a tour to support this album, given its collaborative nature, but should they pop up at a festival somewhere or something (coughbonnaroocough) I will be there to watch, hopefully (cough).

Key Tracks: Rhinestone Eyes, Superfast Jellyfish, White Flag, Empire Ants, Sweepstakes

You Might Also Like: Beck, RJD2, Radiohead, other weird things.

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