I've never been a big Gorillaz fan, sure admiring the cool animated videos and awesome album covers (this one in particular) could in theory make me a mild fan, but really I've only ever really got into their two mostly well-known singles, "Clint Eastwood," back in 2001 and 2005's "Feel Good Inc." And briefly simmered through their self-titled debut, which after listening to in depth recently I thought was pretty good. Whether I've listened to their music much over the years or not, the fact that their an animated band has always spawned an interesting essence about them.
Plastic Beach is their third album, possibly the most experimental they have been on any of their albums. Whilst for the most part, this is a solid album--there's nothing awful about the record, Its lengthy self probably doesn't make it as gripping as I thought their first album was, however there a lot of cool moments. Starting things off is an atmospheric introduction, aptly titled "Orchestral Intro" laced with strings, weaving into "Welcome to the World of the Plastic Beach," an old-school-tinged track with horns, drums and snares featuring Snoop Dogg, which sounds pretty good.
"White Flag," is a tribal-influenced almost tropical douped number featuring grime artists Kano and Bashy, opening with pulsing bongos, flutes and orchestration, before ascending into a more syth-based hip-hop inspired sound. It's different, but I like it a lot. Next up is "Rhinestone Eyes," a vocally distorted, beepy-bass tinged number--it's sound good but also sounds like it's missing something to complete the sound, in other words it could be better.
Unsurprisingly, "Stylo" is the albums biggest highlight--as well as having a cool video, which features Bruce Willis, I also like the '80s inspired synthesized keyboard and pondering bass line. Following swiftly is "Superfast Jellyfish," which is another highlight. It's very hip-hop inspired, the song probably has one of the albums most strongest chorus'. "Empire Ants," is a calm almost experimental ocean music-inspired number--but it sounds like elevator music to me.
More of the albums more experimental moments are, "Glitter Freeze," which rocks a futuristic, electronic romp--cluttering with different layered laser synth inspired bass lines. Yes, it is as epic as I've described it. Lou Reed is the vocal lead on "Some Kind of Nature," it as a rigorous processed bass line driven over a mash of flutes and piano keys, however even better is the calming "On Melancholy Hill," a synth grounded number with lovely melodies.
With Plastic Beach extending way over 15 tracks--making the album indeed too long for its own good, a couple songs towards either just don't work or emerge as a tedious approach to the albums end. "Broken" isn't bad, it sounds very middle of the road but I do like hose electronic undertones. I'm not quite sure what the bleepy "Sweepstakes" is trying to do. The title track "Plastic Beach," goes for that off-beat electronic sound but doesn't quite hit the mark as by this point it sounds like its been cut from the same vein as previous tracks on here. "To Binge" is vocally fronted, one of the few songs on here that haven't had any weird vocal treatment.
"Cloud of Unknowing," is an angelic number--piano keys and warbling strings intact. It ends the "Orchestral Intro" that opened the album. Apart from a haul of straining synths and a bleepy bass line, nothing more seems to be going on in the plodding "Private Jet." Closing the album are "Pirates Progress" and "Three Hearts, Seven Seas, Twelve Moons," which are atmospheric orchestrated pieces of music like the albums opener, but longer.
The Gorillaz sure delivered one heck of a third album and whether it's perfect or not doesn't matter as surely there is something here for either an experimental or hip-hop listener of the Gorillaz, however whilst critics rave about Plastic Beach, as a whole record I'm not convinced it's as good as their last two albums, particularly their first.
Best: Stylo, Superfast Jellyfish, White Flag, Glitter Freeze, On Melancholy Hill