Gorillaz
Plastic Beach


2.0
poor

Review

by clavichordwolf USER (4 Reviews)
March 24th, 2010 | 19 replies


Release Date: 2010 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Plastic Beach is nothing but candy-coated bullshit played for satire.

When “Clint Eastwood” hit the airwaves back in 2001, I doubt anyone expected the Gorillaz to command anything in the way of commercial (or artistic) longevity. After all, how far can you take a virtual hip-hop band (one founded by the leader of a f-cking britpop band at that)? Yet here we are, nine years, several hits, an apocalyptic concept album, a graphic autobiography and several inconsequential remix records later, and the Gorillaz are still jacking radio stations, getting into high speed chases with Bruce Willis and dancing to the beat of modern decay.

Plastic Beach has been touted as a direct sequel to Demon Days. I don't really know how that's possible, since Demon Days more or less ended with the world going up in flames, but there are several thematic similarities between the two albums. Where Demon Days was a satirical hip-pop record written from the perspective of a cartoon rock band, Plastic Beach is – pretty much the same thing, actually. It just isn't as successful. When “Stylo” started making rounds a few months back, it generated a decent amount of hype. I, however, wasn't all that impressed. Sure, “Stylo” has all the makings of a great Gorillaz track: cameo from a celebrated rapper (Mos Def), melancholic vocals from Damon Albarn, explosive turn from a legendary soul musician (Bobby Womack), but there was something missing. The beat sounded flat and oversynthesized, not unlike a sh-tty James Murphy instrumental. It had none of the depth or subtleties that their old beats had, and I quickly realized why.

Instead of enlisting Automator, Danger Mouse or another producer in their league, Damon Albarn decided to produce this album himself. Now Albarn is a fantastic songwriter, but hip-hop - hell, electronic music as a whole - is well outside his comfort zone. While Albarn has delved into hip-hop/electronica outside the Gorillaz (13, Think Tank, The Good, The Bad & The Queen), he still received considerable assistance from whatever producers he was working with at the time - producers who had knowledge and experience of both genres (William Orbit, Danger Mouse) that he lacked. There's a reason why Albarn left production duties on the first two Gorillaz albums to outside beatsmiths: instead of the brilliantly crafted hip-pop instrumentals found on the first two albums, Plastic Beach is littered with glossy synthesizer bullsh-t. In fact, this album accomplishes the nearly impossible task of being artistically stagnant and regressive at the same time. Though the music itself is considerably different from their first two records (i.e. it sucks), Plastic Beach is structured almost exactly like Demon Days. Psychopathic whimsy? Animated melancholy? Warped social commentary? A coalition of rappers, rockers, orchestra ensembles and musical demigods? They're all there, just without the passion and creativity that guided their earlier records.

And honestly, while the cast of Demon Days wasn't quite as renowned as the Plastic Beach roster, they put considerably more effort into their performances than you're likely to find here. "Welcome to the World of the Plastic Beach" sounds phoned in even by Snoop Dogg's standards, and his efforts to inject social consciousness into his lyrics come off as awkward and strained. Lou Reed and Mark E. Smith turn in performances that could've been executed by anyone with a set of vocal chords, but since they were important musicians a good century ago, well sh-t, that just completely changes everything. Elsewhere, Mos Def continues his bland artistic resurgence, contributing forgettable rhymes to "Sweepstakes" and "Stylo," and while the idea of De La Soul rapping their way through a cereal jingle might sound awesome in theory, "Superfast Jellyfish" is just more of the batsh-t irreverence they've been doing for twenty-plus years now. To make things worse, Albarn is just as uninspired behind the microphone as he is in the producer's chair. Granted, his 2-D vocals have always been a little deadpan, but listening to him mumble his way through the two or three songs he actually appears on is nothing short of painful. He actually sounds bored on “Rhinestone Eyes,” like he's sick of his own melancholic posturing. I can't say that I blame him.

There are a few bright spots on this otherwise dismal album: a beautiful orchestral opening (it's never a good sign when the intro is one of your best songs), a stellar blend of Lebanese folk music and UK grime (“White Flag,” featuring the only half-decent rapping on the album) and the thunderous guest appearances from soul legend Bobby Womack (“Stylo,” “Cloud of Unknowing”). Little Dragon's Yukimi Nagano also deserves special notice, since she steals the f-cking show whenever she makes an appearance (the Asiatic disco track “Empire Ants” is the one song here that stands up to the Gorillaz' past work). Otherwise, Plastic Beach is nothing but candy-coated bullsh-t played for satire.


user ratings (1236)
Chart.
3.5
great
other reviews of this album
1 of
  • Jasdevi087 (4)
    ...

    Peter Tabakis (4)
    Damon Albarn establishes himself as a pop auteur. Pop hits be damned, consistency rules he...

    TheSmoke (4.5)
    Plastic Beach is an very good album that nerver gets boring, it´s dreamy and it´s not co...

    Plutonio (3)
    Plastic Beach is another album from hip-hop's eclectic superheroes; this time their eclect...

  • DhA (4)
    Not that different from previous releases, although the lack of a killer single may make t...

    piero (4)
    Maybe Plastic Beach represents the beginning of the end of musical labeling, the start of ...

    Nick Butler EMERITUS (2.5)
    An identity crisis caught on record....

    Deviant STAFF (4)
    Round 3 for Albarn and co. proves that third time is still indeed the charm....

  • sobelecta (4.5)
    Album number three doesn't disappoint from the former Blur man....

    Raul Stanciu STAFF (3.5)
    After two brilliant efforts, Albarn & Co. are back with a bigger number, this time more s...


Comments:Add a Comment 
clavichordwolf
March 24th 2010


11 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

I didn't mean for this to be more than a soundoff piece, but since I guess it was too long to post there, it ended up here instead. I thought about expanding it further, but honestly, this album doesn't deserve it.

Bulldog
March 24th 2010


3796 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0 | Sound Off

YAY MOAR HIPHOP REVIEWS.

clavichordwolf
March 24th 2010


11 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

bitch stay off that blow

mmfarva
March 24th 2010


1352 Comments


Review question: I wrote my first review, but under my reviews section of my profile the band name says "Other" and the picture isn't there. I try to fix it but the changes won't save. Anybody know why?

Also sorry to ask here, seemed like a good place though.

plane
Staff Reviewer
March 24th 2010


6094 Comments


@ mmfarva: http://www.musicianforums.com/forums/forumdisplay.php?f=95

mmfarva
March 24th 2010


1352 Comments


Thanks, guess I probably should've been able to figure that out myself.

sgrevs
March 24th 2010


698 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

When I heard that Damon Albarn would be self-producing the new Gorillaz album I was immediately weary.


I think you mean wary.

clavichordwolf
March 24th 2010


11 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

Noted and corrected.

Plutonio
March 24th 2010


474 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Granted, Albarn's one of the most brilliant and versatile pop composers working today, I couldn't imagine him succeeded in the same way that Automator and Danger Mouse (two producers who can make their style fit just about any genre, but still understand the fundamentals of hip-hop) did on the first two records.


ummm wut?...? fix

Deviant.
Staff Reviewer
March 24th 2010


31374 Comments


There's some nice writing to be found here. My only problems are that out of this entire review you only mention the actual music once:

The music, a fusion of played-out new wave beats and self-consciously whimsical chamber pop, is continually dull, and the rotating cast of vocalists does absolutely nothing to mitigate this blandness.
It's nicely written but it's not very in-depth, and as there's quite a few different styles/influences on offer I think it could maybe benefit with a little more....padding perhaps? The only other thing that caught my attention was:
Granted, Albarn's one of the most brilliant and versatile pop composers working today
I think it's a bit of a stretch to refer to him as a 'pop' producer. Other than that, nicely done and I enjoyed reading it. I disagree entirely but that's beside the point

Digging: Objekt - Flatland

Urinetrouble
March 24th 2010


5764 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

gorillaz>over this review

focksy
March 24th 2010


437 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

stop hatin

HighandDriving
March 24th 2010


3288 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

Wow lots of noobs up in here, giving way too high of a score.

porch
March 24th 2010


8459 Comments


Says the guy that gave Jagged Little Pill a 5. Hilarious

Bulldog
March 24th 2010


3796 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0 | Sound Off

hmm

focksy
March 24th 2010


437 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

lol noobs

Deviant.
Staff Reviewer
March 24th 2010


31374 Comments


Damn those noobs, liking albums and expressing opinions

clavichordwolf
March 26th 2010


11 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

yeah I'm out

Tigerboy
March 29th 2010


5 Comments


good review... this album sucks!



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