Mar 26, 2010 Web Exclusive
2001. Boy bands continued to reign, and music fans, for the most part, still bought physical CDs at some store called Best Buy (you might have heard of it). So naturally, when Gorillaz's self-titled debut was released that year, there was something incredibly refreshing about it. One of Britpop's heroes, Damon Albarn of Blur, had reclaimed pop music with his droll yet wide-ranging voice, and infused it with cleverness and simplicity and, uh, animated characters.
2010. Plastic Beach, the third album from Gorillaz is released in what some may call a post-digital world, a world in which the idea of a virtual band isn't really all that surprising. Even less surprising, the album proves to be a more "difficult" album than Gorillaz's past two, with Albarn and his rotating all-star cast (Mos Def, Snoop Dogg, and Lou Reed all rap, if that's what one would call Reed's awkward sing-speak on "Some Kind of Nature") weaving an ecology narrative through dubstep/electropop soundscapes. It's a lot to take in, and the mind is not sure where to start.
Perhaps a logical place to start is with Snoop Dogg. He sets the tone of Plastic Beach on its second track, "Welcome to the World of the Plastic Beach," laying out the environmental issues plaguing both the world inhabited by Gorillaz members and our own planet. Never have these problems sounded so good, Snoop's laidback rhymes gliding over a driving drum beat and light synth touches.
The songs immediately following "Plastic Beach" are the album's strongest, including the '80s-cop-show-esque first single "Stylo" (featuring freestyling wails from soul great Bobby Womack) and goofy-as-hell second single "Superfast Jellyfish" (featuring De La Soul and Super Furry Animals' Gruff Rhys). But from there on, Plastic Beach's remaining eight tracks sound less immediate, sometimes getting lost in the album's complicated—albeit culturally-relevant—concept. (www.gorillaz.com)
Author rating: 7/10
Average reader rating: 8/10