Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Gorillaz - 'Plastic Beach'

I’ll start by saying that I respek the heck out of Damon Albarn. Dude’s worked with tons of artists I love – Elastica, The Rentals, and half of The Clash among them. Oh yeah, and he was in Blur. They were awesome. Have you heard “Coffee and TV?” Shit rules. But while I dig Albarn in general, he strikes me as someone that you need to say “no” to every once in a while. As evidence, consider Plastic Beach, the third proper full-length from Albarn’s “fictional” band Gorillaz.

At 57 minutes, Plastic Beach is bit long and boring. Oh sure, there are some stellar electro-world-whatever tunes spread around (more on that later), but man could this album have used some editing. I’d start by cutting the two intro tracks. “Orchestral Intro” is alright enough with its minute or so of fanfare; no one is going to swear by this track, but it’s short enough that it’s not much of a bother. Less middling is intro number two, “Welcome to the World of the Plastic Beach,” featuring Snoop Dogg. Snoop repeats the title an awful lot of times while Albarn lingers in the background. The rapping is superfluous to an already superfluous track.

But then, that could be said of most of the rappers. Gorillaz was partially conceived as an outlet for Albarn’s interest in hip-hop, but the tunes here don’t lend themselves much to partying. Mos Def gets a nice flow late in the disc on “Sweepstakes,” but otherwise the rappers come off underwhelming.

Albarn himself is rarely the vocal focus here, although he gets in a few sleepy turns like on “Rhinestone Eyes.” Oddly enough, the most successful guest star is Lou Reed. Musically, “Some Kind of Nature” is the same as every other song on Plastic Beach: low key with little electronic flourishes. But somehow Reed’s weathered voice provides a welcome contrast to the song’s bleeps, blips, and bloops.

Plastic Beach could have used a little more work. The songs tend to blur together. Like his other side project, The Good, The Bad, and The Queen, Albarn shows a tendency to lock into a midtempo groove and stay there, which gets dull quickly. For every retro-’80s success – “Some Kind of Nature,” “On Melancholy Hill” – there are plenty of dull picks to kill the fun.

1 comment:

Adam McGrath said...

Ah, I didn't think Plastic Beach would get a review from you. I was actually looking for a guest blogger to cover it for my site. I've only listened to it once, but I see your points about needing a firmer editing hand. Let's talk soon about some post swaps!