Review Summary: Album number three doesn't disappoint from the former Blur man.
Gorillaz have always a bit of an enigma. Originally a concept by Damon Albarn and Jamie Hewlett, with Del The Funkee Homosapien and Dan The Automator, over the years it has changed, bringing in Danger Mouse and multiple guest stars on 'Demon Days' (the bands second effort, after the self titled debut), till now, where it is mainly the work of Albarn and artist Hewlett. It also features some of Albarn's most expansive and ambitious work, and yet his most successful.
The idea of Gorillaz still being a side project is a bit silly now, third album in and millions of sales clocked in, but the fact that Albarn has this template seems to make him more ambitious and open to try out many new styles and ideas, which he couldn't do with, say, Blur. And let's not forget this is an animated band, which was the original concept behind the group.
However, unlike another animated band, The Archies, there is something a little more dark and visceral lying here. Let's look at the tracks. The album starts nice enough, with an orchestral intro that is destined to split people in two. Personally I'm indifferent but it's a nice start to the album. Then after what I think is personally a weaker song on the album courtesy of Snoop Dogg, Welcome To The Plastic Beach, the album picks up. The tunes come thick and fast, with White Flag, Superfast Jellyfish, and Empire Ants (Little Dragon is some sort of revelation) being some particular favourites.
Of course, one thing you'll notice about the album is the amount of collaborations on it. This is very much what 'Gorillaz' is about. It's like an episode of the sitcom 'Extras', where the guest stars are very much integral to the plot to the album, and while some may be more superfluous than others (Snoop Dogg and Mark E Smith, mainly) they all provide a different element to the album. Like Demon Days, it also makes some who could be considered has-been's regain their relevancy. Like Demon Days revitalised Shaun Ryder and De La Soul to record some of their best material in years, Plastic Beach turns Bobby Womack's emotional R&B/soul croon into one of the most soulful (and powerful) turns so far this decade in the wonderful first single 'Stylo'.
Of course, the album has some issues. Like the previous two, it tends to drag near the end, and it can be argued it's just a bit too long, and there isn't enough of Damon's voice on the album (or 2D). But these are minor squabbles in what's another success for Damon Albarn. It's a superb, eclectic album with big names and even bigger ideas. Damon Albarn said this was his most pop album he's ever made, and in a weird and wonderful way, it sort of is.
Some Kind of Nature