Review Summary: Not that different from previous releases, although the lack of a killer single may make this a fans only affair.
I'm just going to put this out there, Plastic Beach is an album for music lovers. As contrived as that may sound, it truly is an album best enjoyed without the partisan blinkers that come with being a fan of any one particular type of music. This is because what Damon Albarn and co. have done here is craft an album that draws on the various relevant musical genres of the modern age, creating a sound that is effortlessly "of the moment" without sounding too deliberate (all whilst featuring past greats such as Lou Reed and Paul Simonon and Mick Jones from The Clash).
One thing that is immediately obvious is the number of collaborators here, with the majority of the tracks featuring a big name in the world of music - some are used to colour Albarn's music in their respective shades (such as Lou Reed's NYC cool on "Some Kind of Nature or Mark E. Smith's stark, ranting turn on "Glitter Freeze) whereas other tracks are centred on the guest artist (such as the bouncy, positive vibes on "Superfast Jellyfish" courtesy of De La Soul). Each style works well, and stops the album from feeling like Damon Albarn's take on Timbaland's "Shock Value" album concept, so to speak. The album is certainly a Gorillaz one, and indeed many highlights, such as "Rhinestone Eyes" and "On Melancholy Hill" are those where there are no guest artists (the latter track in particular is one of those you can't believe hasn't been written already).
That’s not to say everybody will enjoy this – as is often the case, great music isn’t necessarily the stuff you like immediately – and there’s not “Clint Eastwood” or “Feel Good Inc.” type tracks here per se, which, although the album doesn’t suffer for, wouldn’t go amiss either. Lead single “Stylo”, unlike previous Gorillaz singles, is a much more subdued affair, Mos Def’s low key delivery bubbling along with the looped bass line until Bobby Womack’s booming soulful voice hits – it’s a somewhat strange choice for a single given there’s no chorus or sing – a – long moment, but the sheer quality of the performances means it’s still a great track.
Overall, as has been the case in the past, Gorillaz have delivered a top notch album – and even for those who won’t want to sit through the whole album very often or who are put off by what may seem like too many collaborators from years past, rest assured this is very much an album of its own time, and there’s sure to be at least a handful of tracks that you’ll enjoy.