A few days ago, I made a post about Damon Albarn, the man behind Gorillaz and a multitude of other projects. Gorillaz just came out with a new album, Plastic Beach, which follows a weird enough story about living on an island made up of the world’s trash. The album itself is more eclectic the previous two Gorillaz releases, with a more electronic focus and an almost Disco feel. That, and it’s got an incredible number of collaborators. I mean, what’s Snoop Dog doing there? (Though I feel like that’s my reaction anytime I hear Snoop Dog.)
Gorillaz themselves are actually a holdover from that period where I listened to incredibly bad music. Thankfully, though, their albums have much more staying power than their singles and their constantly changing sound and circle of collaborators keep them fresh. Demon Days is one of my most listened to albums of the past few years, so expectations for Plastic Beach ran fairly high. I still don’t quite know my opinion of the album, as it seems every song is back-loaded, taking a minute or two to build to a proper point. The album’s full of moments, but it becomes a question of whether those moments are worth wading through the rest.
The only stand-out gem is “On Melancholy Hill,” one of the only songs to be consistent and, surprisingly, without a (feat. …) tag. Albarn’s good with sad melodies, and when he hits right with a backing track to fit, it quickly becomes a beast of its own. Melancholy Hill maintains the electro Disco sound of the rest of the album, but its used in a much more mellow fashion. Whereas other songs will build up to a frenetic point, this track stays mostly the same throughout, with only one hook. While it does build up in a sense, it never tries to reach a climax, instead just layering the textures onto one rythmic line and then letting it all come down.
There are other solid songs, with “Superfast Jellyfish” being a second favorite of mine. “Stylo,” too. The strings in White Flag (arranged by none other than Beirut) are incredible, but the middle section of the song brings it way down, where the rapping feels entirely out of place. In fact, Plastic Beach seems to be full of weird rapping, whereas in their previous two albums the rap parts where some of the best, here they almost universally bring down their respective songs. Only on “Sweepstakes,” with Mos Def, and “Superfast Jellyfish,” with De La Soul, does it really fit, “Sweepstakes” because it was done in one take and builds like crazy and “Superfast Jellyfish” because it’s not taking itself seriously.