Gorillaz - Plastic Beach
The scope and depth of
Plastic Beach is staggering.
Plastic Beach back story – colourful fluff about cyborg
bassists, kidnapped singers and islands made of trash –
might make you think the whole cartoon band conceit is
wearing a bit thin. Listen, though, and it makes more
sense than ever.
Only behind such a distracting smokescreen could Damon
Albarn get away with conducting a project as
sprawling, daring, innovative, surprising, muddled and
magnificent as Plastic Beach: not just one of the best
records of 2010, but a release to stand alongside the
greatest Albarn’s ever been involved with and a new
benchmark for collaborative music as a whole.
Not that you’d think that from the first couple of tracks.
After a meandering, seagull-strewn string intro, Snoop
Dogg phones in his contribution to lounge rap number
Welcome to the World of the Plastic Beach. You’d be
forgiven for assuming Gorillaz had found their place as
Damon’s token hip hop side project. Then, the first
handbrake turn in what will be a head-spinning ride. White
Flag opens as the world’s only Shinto Bollywood track
before Kano and Bashy trade anti-war,
anti-crime and anti-religion rhymes over trashy Casio
beats. It’s the first of a plethora of jaw-dropping
surprises on what might possibly be the least predictable
album ever made.
From here Plastic Beach simply flies. Rhinestone Eyes
(brilliant) is all 80s synths and M.I.A. skipping chants,
first single Stylo (also brilliant) manages to merge
Bobby Womack’s soulful croon and Mos Def’s raps
into something resembling a Gary Numan or Grace
Jones track from 1983, and Superfast Jellyfish
(particularly brilliant) finds Super Furry Animals’
Gruff Rhys delivering an OutKast-meets-The Rentals
elastic pop bouncer in keeping with his colourful cartoon
surroundings, right down to the trumpets that sound like a
sad clown at the end.
The celebrity guests all step up to the raised bar. Lou
Reed’s fragile turn on Some Kind of Nature is the kind
of New York piano charmer he does best, and Mark E.
Smith is a spectral, menacing presence on Glitter
Freeze. But it’s when Albarn takes centre stage that
Plastic Beach really thrills: Empire Ants is a trickling
ballad to rank alongside Blur’s best, and On Melancholy
Hill is a hazy pop gem with the sugary 80s sparkle of
Strawberry Switchblade or early Lightning Seeds.
The scope and depth of Plastic Beach is staggering. For
anyone frustrated that Blur never quite managed their
White Album, look no further.