Gorillaz - Plastic Beach

The most recent release from the cartoon concept from the minds of Damon Albarn and Jamie Hewlett has been out for nearly two months now, and I long debated reviewing it in this space. The merit of such a review, obviously, is that the album is incredible, complete and enjoyable. The demerit, at least in my mind, was that I wouldn't be discussing a band that needs any promotion, any awareness. Gorillaz are ubiquitous. If there's a fan out there who hasn't picked up (or found means of acquiring) Plastic Beach yet I'd be greatly surprised. But for those who may only know Gorillaz for singles like "Clint Eastwood" and "Feel Good Inc." need to know that Plastic Beach is a revelation. Where previous albums were spotty, perhaps even mired in the "hits plus filler" tag, this new record delivers a solid line up through and through. Despite an odd opener, performed by Snoop Dogg, the album is artistic, challenging, educated, fun and dynamic. At times Plastic Beach succeeds by taking itself serious, at other times, it dials back to a self-aware goofiness. The listener is lucky to receive songs like "Rhinestone Eyes" and "Superfast Jellyfish" back to back. The album provides loads of quality juxtaposition, on one hand melancholy poetics and on another, dance-ready, uplifting, hip hop. But Plastic Beach succeeds most in how it plots these fun and tender moments together in a legitimate theme.

Plastic Beach is loaded with island imagery, sailing reference and occasional calypso influence. It's also an album about memory, sadness, consumerism and collaboration. The density is vaguely staggering when so many albums choose to tell a single story or feature a memoir-esque encapsulation of the human experience. Gorillaz do both here, grabbing onto numerous concepts, and doing all of it in a narrative journey that mixes hip-hop, electronic, soul, indie rock, arena rock, jazz, blues and just about any other genre conceivable. And the assembly of guest musicians, who act to throw all of these disparate and volatile genres and messages together is incredibly impressive. Lou Reed, Mick Jones, Bobby Womack, Mos Def, De La Soul, and Snoop Dogg. All together. On one album, a concept album, from a concept band, creating music that is anything, but merely conceptual. If nothing else, Gorillaz is about altering the way we perceive music, the way we consider bands to exist. In their nature, they're cartoon characters, fictional and inhuman, but they're also the ultimate instance of freedom. Anything can happen. Any genre, any concept, any dalliance of musical adventurousness can take place. And now, any musician can appear and partake/contribute to the unparalleled creative ouvre. Essentially, what I'm saying is that you, fan or not, are doing yourself an incredible disservice by not listening to Plastic Beach. This is an album that marks the beginning of something incredible, collaboration that doesn't devolve necessarily to a supergroup, but exists more as a tapestry to which each artist has contributed a design. You will feel downbeat moments and you will feel like getting up and moving, but you won't ever feel bored. In fact, I think, if you're anything like me, you'll feel like putting starting the album anew the instant it ends.

And you can still see the Gorillaz live performance (with Bobby Womack) on The Colbert Report here. What? A funny, incisive political program, and good music? Yes. Go straight there by clicking here.

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