Review: Gorillaz’ “Plastic Beach”

Damon Albarn, Snoop Dogg and Lou Reed: Together at last.

PHOTO COURTESY PARLOPHONE/VIRGIN

PHOTO COURTESY PARLOPHONE/VIRGIN

Tony Libera

Gorillaz ALBUM: âÄúPlastic BeachâÄù LABEL: Parlophone/Virgin Vanilla Ice once demanded that we âÄúStop, collaborate and listen,âÄù and itâÄôs obvious that Damon Albarn took that to heart. When the millennium came to its lackluster end, Britpop mania fizzled, but instead of fading into obscurity, the Blur frontman maintained relevance by fine-tuning his Gorillaz concept and reaching out to other artists. Their previous releases, âÄúGorillazâÄù and âÄúDemon Days,âÄù had their fair share of collaborators, but on âÄúPlastic BeachâÄù Albarn brings out the big guns âÄî from De La Soul to Lou Reed. The album fades in with seagull cries, swooning strings and elegiac divergences that wordlessly reveal AlbarnâÄôs overarching subject: The disjunction between nature and modern life. Considering the playful superficiality of the Gorillaz project, Albarn isnâÄôt taking too strong of a position; heâÄôs merely attempting to grill modernityâÄôs cons while still utilizing its pros. Brass orchestration dissolves into âÄúWelcome to the World of the Plastic Beach,âÄù a reintroduction to the pulsing beats and trancy pop that Gorillaz fans know and love. ItâÄôs also the beginning of the cameo cavalcade. His slickness the Snoop D.O. Double G. kicks things off, blowing out plumes of laidback funk and acknowledging that, âÄúit seems like the world is so hopeless.âÄù After the shock of SnoopâÄôs appearance wears off, weâÄôre left to wonder if AlbarnâÄôs shot his load on the second song of the album. Fortunately, the star appearances just get better. âÄúSweepstakesâÄù has Mos Def taking over the mic, pumping out cash-centric lines in frantic succession. âÄúPlastic BeachâÄù features both Mick Jones and Paul Simonon, making it the first time the two have recorded together since The Clash disbanded. As if the cool-camelâÄôs back werenâÄôt already about to break, the legendary Lou Reed offers his graveled voice on âÄúSome Kind of Nature.âÄù Many artists get criticized for losing moxie in their old age, but LouâÄôs got swagger pouring out of his wrinkled, ape-like features. It might sound like Albarn is getting lost amid the massive star power on hand, but in actuality, his solo tracks are some of the best on the album. âÄúOn Melancholy HillâÄù notably shows off the singerâÄôs puppy-dog vocals while providing a glimmer of hope. âÄúYou canâÄôt get what you want, but you can get me/so letâÄôs set up and see/âÄôcause you are my medicine/when youâÄôre close to me.âÄù ThereâÄôs a sense of loss permeating the whole of the album, but itâÄôs nice to know that some form of happiness still exists in the âÄúPlastic BeachâÄù world. 4/5 Stars