Album Review

Rachel Mooney

Many of the tracks on Plastic Beach have an old school feel.

Both literally and figuratively speaking, there is no voice like Damon Albarn’s. He is innovative in that he is constantly changing his sound and in my opinion is as musically eclectic as a yard sale. With that being said, this is what makes Gorillaz so exciting: unpredictability followed by what is almost always pleasantly-surprised satisfaction. Plastic Beach doesn’t disappoint in this sector, showcasing Albarn’s distinctive style and featuring numerous collaborations by artists such as Snoop, Mos Def and even a Brass Ensemble. While 2005’s Demon Days cemented my high opinion of Albarn and Gorillaz in general, Plastic Beach takes things in a different, more electronic direction, all the while maintaining the balance for even the most skeptical fan.

The first track is an orchestral intro which is short and sweet and opens with the distinct feeling that something is slightly askew. The dissonance in this intro sets the tone for the entire album like the opening song to a horror film. It’s intriguing, curious, and all that I expect of Gorillaz. The second track, ‘Welcome to the World of the Plastic Beach,’ opens with Snoop and immediately sets an old school vibe with keys and a hip hop feel. This track, among others, are much more synthetic than songs found on previous records but still contain the undeniable beats that are irrefutably Gorillaz. ‘White Flag,’ opens with a charming eastern drum beat which takes me to the orient and has the lyrical depth which I always come to expect from Gorillaz. ‘Rhinestone Eyes,’ breaks apart from the collaborations for a moment and immediately brings me back to Albarn’s soothing voice, a background noise to a funky pulse-like beat.

My personal favorite, ‘Superfast Jellyfish,’ is an awesome track with light, upbeat harmonic hooks directly clashing with the dirty, muddled beat found in the verses. ‘Glitter Freeze,’ opens with the question, ‘Where’s North from here?,’ and I can see why, as it sounds like the synthetic, glittery equivalent of being lost in the woods. Lou Reed makes another appearance on this album with, ‘Some Kind of Nature,’ and provides an always appreciated intermission of sorts with his nostalgic voice. ‘Pirate Jet,’ closes the album with the same offbeat dissonance which opens the album and fades out in such a way that if you looped the album and started again, it would be almost unnoticeable. At points, the music found on Plastic Beach is ambient, hip hop, synthetic, pop, and everything in betwee,n and with this degree of musical encompassment there is something on this album for everyone.

As a whole, many of the tracks on Plastic Beach have an old school feel: a throw back to a different time musically converged with the always innovative, unmistakable Gorillaz style. The one and only thing that remains the same with any Gorillaz album is that nothing is the same, and this album’s diversity is so adamant you almost begin to think this a mixed CD of 16 tracks put on random. Gorillaz always keep the sounds fresh and this album is no different- the beats are hot, Albarn’s creativity seems endless, and the urge to dance is irresistible.