New Gorillaz Album, Plastic Beach

Gorillaz – Plastic Beach (Virgin)

Alright. So all you need to know as background is that the Gorillaz are actually that guy from Blur (Damon Albarn) and whoever he contracts to help him predict the future of music. This usually means writing a basic rock/pop song and performing it with synths, a drum machine, and occasionally a hip rapper. Whereas the first two albums featured production from Dan the Automator and Dangermouse (respectively), this album is self-producer and it hurts. (When there’s no one else to bounce ideas off, they can roll away and snowball out of ctrl.) Damon brought a boatload of high- and low-profile guests with him like snoop dogg, mos def, lou reed, and little dragon. Snoop always spits the exact same verse and as a result his track is straight bullshit. This album is even more hip-hop heavy and chippy than usual. Chip-hop, if you will. Damon’s apathetic static strolling vocals are often juxtaposed with what would be happy/dancy production if it were sped up just a tad and sung by modanna. But his vox are not all over the album. As much as this album wants to be the future, it tries to channel current indie rock trends such as rpm and the collaboration style of a music collective. The tracks aren’t songs as much as beats with vocals arbitrarily layed ontop. While the album overall isn’t really good, it’s conceivable that I could listen to it enough for it to become nostalgic quickly. Despite being pretty weird, it’s pretty accessible. But there’s no reason to really have a strong opinion either way about this album unless you’re reviewing it. I probably should try to coin chip-pop instead of chip-hop to describe this music because it really is a pop-centered record and i think hip-hop is implied in the rhyme. Chris (mondays 8-10pm) described it as “uninspiring; mediocre; better than most…” Look, if this record came out in ‘84 or even ‘94 it would be mind blowing, but right now it just seems trendy. Maybe criticizing this album as mostly apathetic throw away material is ignorant because it fails to acknowledge the skill behind writing an album this ballsy, poppy, and solid. Maybe. Somehow it’s nauseating, addicting, catchy, awkward, intimate, apathetic, insulting, and inspiring all at once. I could see myself building up a tolerance to it but dependence might be a stretch. It’s easier to hate than love this record because the bad (ex. tracks 2, 9) is really bad and the good is only respectfully good rather than super dope. Probably because of the 5 years that it took to make this record (and it did, it’s not like they were out touring) it suffers from “chinese democracy” syndrome. (If you don’t know what I’m talking about, God bless you but I essentially mean simple songs that are way over-conceptualized.) Guests like Mos Def and Lou Reed (who dissapoints even more than usual) are drowned out and cannot save us from the truth that the missing D’s (Dan the automator, dangermouse, del, and doom) made the Gorillaz great. Look, if I made this record, I’d definitely show it off (even the snoop dogg track for the sake of the story) but if I was the Gorillaz and I made this record I would get another ill producer to make it worthy of the brand. Damon is obsessed with his synth. track 14 sounds like he just overdubbed some slide guitar and vocals over a casio. This record has less formal songwriting than usual. Probably because as a producer, the usual songwriter focused on the wrong part of the recording process. To (b)each his own, I Guess. But that’s just the problem with this album; despite all the appearances, there’s not enough collaboration—it’s too much just Damon’s unchecked record. It’s too bad he’s respected enough as a musician to unconditionally get all of these guests and make a record carte blanche (a similar problem to snoop dogg’s verse but not nearly as serious). Don’t get me wrong, it’s not all bad. There really are some gems. But after Demon Days, pretty much anything is going to be a little down hill. The problem is that Plastic Beach took it all the way down to sea level. Look, if you try everything (which they do) some shit is going to hit the mark (which it does) and some shit is going to fail miserably and embarrassingly (which it does). 6/10

my pix: 4, 6, 7, 8, 12, 13



Mondays 12-2pm

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