Review Summary: After two brilliant efforts, Albarn & Co. are back with a bigger number, this time more serious and eco-friendly album.
Having lots of contributors isn't always a bad idea, considering how good their previous albums are and the large number of hits throughout the years (Feel Good, Inc., Clint Eastwood, DARE, 19/2000, etc.), but this time Albarn brought in an even bigger number of guests. Ranging from Snoop Dogg and De La Soul to Bobby Womack, Lou Reed and even different Orchestras, Plastic Beach is an eclectic record where you never know what to expect next.
However, Gorillaz work best when they're fun and make disco-pop tracks. First single Stylo and Glitter Freeze are the typical highlights that boost energy and life into this otherwise downtempo album. Albarn chose to let the guests Bobby Womack and Mos Def deliver the tune, rather than him singing full time. Nothing new, but the big number of people who are brought in sing more than Albarn. There are many tracks where you don't hear him almost or at all, like the opener Welcome To The World...(except for some distorted vocals performed by Damon), White Flag, Glitter Freeze, Sweepstakes, Cloud Of Unknowing. This is quite a flaw because considering how much he sang on Demon Days, here he gets lost behind the production desk listening , rather than coming out and sing. His voice is unmistakable , it's the Gorillaz' voice and it's their album, not a compilation after all...
Only towards the end of the album there are some great numbers like On Melancholy Hill, Broken and Plastic Beach where he decides to sing for the whole song.
While the other albums had an identity of their own, Plastic Beach is drowned in different ideas , genres and each time you find a great song , not only different from one another, it's Albarn who's singing. On the amazing Melancholy Hill he successfully contrasts some happy music with painfully lyrics ''Well you can't get what you want/But you can get me'', ''Up on melancholy hill/There's a plastic tree/Are you here with me
Just looking out on the day/Of another dream''. The track creates a cartoon-like setting, but it's what Gorillaz do best.
Then the closing number, another could-have-been-great track,Pirate Jet just fades out halfway, ending a messy album.
Albarn's eco-friendly message gets lost and while this album needs a serious number of spins to capture you in its world, it clearly lacks the poppy tunes the others have. It's a clever album but gets misunderstood because of confusion it creates.
Tracks to download - On Melancholy Hill, Stylo, Glitter Freeze, Plastic Beach, Pirate Jet