Damon Albarn
Monkey: Journey to the West


2.0
poor

Review

by Meatplow USER (111 Reviews)
August 21st, 2008 | 25 replies | 9,586 views


Release Date: 2008 | Tracklist

Review Summary: An awkward, cartoonish opera from the man behind Blur & the Gorillaz...

5 of 5 thought this review was well written

Monkey: Journey to The West

In 2007 a theater adaption of one of the four great classical novels of Chinese literature, Journey to the West (also known simply as Monkey) premiered in Manchester, England. The creation of Chinese actor and director Chen Shi-zheng, teaming up with Damon Albarn and artist Jamie Hewlett (Albarn best known as the frontman of Britpop staples Blur, together with Hewlett the co-creators of the popular virtual band Gorillaz), Monkey: Journey to the West ultimately received several positive reviews for it's modern retelling of the ancient legend. Albarn composed the score whilst Hewlett designed the visual concept, and in 2008 Albarn decided to release an album based on the compositions he worked on here.

Monkey: Journey to the West, the Damon Albarn album is a curious idea. How does music designed to accompany lavish sets and over the top performances fare when removed from such an arrangement? The fact Albarn has recorded this opera with a rather lo-fi setup involving analogue synthesizers, an ondes-martenot and various drum machines also piques ones interest. Add in vocal choirs singing Cantonese lyrics, violins, Chinese instrumentation, a brass section, a unique acrylic instrument invented by Albarn and associates to recreate the sound of many car-horns blaring on Chinese roads and it sounds rather ambitious and promising.

Unfortunately, Monkey: Journey to the West is a very inconsistent listen. It is a collection of 22 tracks, each one more or less an exercise in rudimentary music composition with a few wonderful ideas thrown in sparingly as a spice. The offbeat, cartoonish feel of The Gorillaz is present through Albarn's use of analogue electronics, lending a decidedly cheesy New Wave feel which ends up awkwardly off center alongside the use of traditional instruments.

There are lack of any real songs here, they all flow into one another. This might be fine except nothing really stands out, nothing really goes anywhere. Though on occasion merging several instruments in a fleeting moment of manic brilliance, most sections here are based around one or two simple ideas at work and whilst they sound nice isolated from one another they often don't feel complete and something is definitely lacking trying to piece the entire album together as a consistent listen. It is very avant-garde in a way, with a lot of varied textures and multilayered instruments but the compositions themselves do this little justice and it feels very watered down. Vocal sections can be either pleasant or grating, the female singing and choir sections appropriate enough but the irritating grunts, groans and barking not sitting right.

The biggest problem faced by the compositions featured on Monkey: Journey to the West may well have been it's transition from the stage format to a studio recording. Albarn has injected his unique quirkiness into the production making it Gorrilaz-esque in many ways, and it is an admittedly fun effort at times with some sound ideas. Unfortunately, it is a mostly unremarkable listen.



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user ratings (17)
Chart.
3
good
other reviews of this album
robin EMERITUS (3.5)
Albarn tries his hardest to make an interpretation of his own music larger-than-life, and ends up ma...

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Comments:Add a Comment 
Zebra
Moderator
August 21st 2008



2647 Comments


I never really liked Blur or the Gorillaz so im not interested in this. Good work on the review though.

IAmInsect
August 21st 2008



3800 Comments


good review brah

brandtweathers
August 21st 2008



2007 Comments


hilarious cover

badtaste
August 21st 2008



824 Comments


Good review. I've got a feeling that if you had seen the play then you might have rated it more positively.

Meatplow
August 21st 2008



5524 Comments


I'd like to think I was being generous because of that :p

badtaste
August 21st 2008



824 Comments


Indeed MEATPLOW is Almighty, Much-Forgiving.

charlesfishowitz
August 21st 2008



1794 Comments


i will probably still listen to this.

McP3000
August 21st 2008



3941 Comments


damon albarn is untalented to say the least

Jom
Staff Reviewer
August 21st 2008



2634 Comments


Insert a summary so it doesn't look retarded on the main page. If not, I can't feature any more of your albums! :O

EDIT: :o alsoThis Message Edited On 08.21.08

Meatplow
August 21st 2008



5524 Comments


okay Jom i'll think of something cheers

badtaste
August 21st 2008



824 Comments


lol, I was looking through yesterday's paper and a review of the album pretty much shared the same viewpoints that you've offered. They ragged a bit more on Oriental music though.

robin
Emeritus
August 22nd 2008



4241 Comments


i'm still interested enough to hear this. i've always liked albarns fake attempts on creativity, though i guess this won't sound much like the good, the bad and the queen.

PayneTiger777
August 22nd 2008



4388 Comments


Is it just me or does the guy from the Gorillaz have some sort of weird fetish with monkeys?

Oddsen
August 22nd 2008



1127 Comments


this actually seems a little interesting from reading your review and i may check out a
few tracks. I can believe this is bad though

I know you were going for a short review but you you probably could've mentioned
some of the tracks from the album at some pointThis Message Edited On 08.22.08

brandtweathers
August 22nd 2008



2007 Comments


i love other cultures for holding symbols in a completely different light than myself. monkeys, hahaha

Chewie
August 22nd 2008



4531 Comments


damn, I was waiting for 3 years for the new Gorillaz album, and I get this? I haven't heard it and I'm not calling it bad, but I want ma Gorillaz.

Meatplow
August 22nd 2008



5524 Comments


I know you were going for a short review but you you probably could've mentioned some of the tracks from the album at some point


I wasn't going for a short review, I tried to pad it out as much as needed. I could mention part X of song Y and part Y of song X but due to there being no real songs here and how many sections there are that sound practically the same it felt really unnecessary to do so. Instead I went for capturing the feel of the album as a whole and I think it's all the better for it.

Mr_Coffee
August 22nd 2008



631 Comments


Albarn should stop fucking around and get Blur back together. He is not Thom Yorke.This Message Edited On 08.22.08

Chewie
August 22nd 2008



4531 Comments


fuck Blur, Gorillaz is an easily superior project.

Drickey
August 24th 2008



38 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

He is not Thom Yorke.


Thank god.



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