Album in Depth: Plastic Beach by Gorillaz

Hi, I’m JotaKa. I’m a rocker by birth and grew listening to rock discs and long plays by the dozen. Last week, I tried to cover up an album that was told to me to be a concept album by the internet. I hope I could prove it wrong, but a Gorillaz fan comment on every last mistake that I could’ve done. That impressed me by a whole lot, because he didn’t just rant it in horrible grammar or said: “you suck”, he answered my review in depth.

Well, in the last part of his comment, he suggested me going out and getting “Plastic Beach”, Gorillaz last work. So, what did I do, I obeyed him. I’m not at a stage where I can refuse suggestions. I went to look for it in the stores. Back at my house, I went to get as much information over this album as I could, and the worst name that I could ever hear from an album personnel appeared: Snoop Dogg. Why Snoop Dogg? If you are going to do the extra mile to make people hate this shit, why not bring in Theremin and Yoko Ono? There are some more rappers all in all, but just… Snoop Dogg. Man…

So over that, Plastic Beach was released this year, 2010. It started out as a project called Carousel but few time later it gained this new name. I will not talk about the story of Gorillaz, how it was made and what is the idea, since I covered it already on my Demon Days review.

Well, of all the three covers, this is, by far, the less evocative one. While the first tried to show off the characters in a white background and the second one is a parody of the famous Let It Be cover, this one shows just where supposedly Murdoc imprisoned 2D for the recording of this album. This album got just 2nd place in the UK charts, getting the second best place for a Gorillaz album. So, without talking too much, let’s get this over with: Plastic Beach by Gorillaz.

1st track: “Orchestral Intro (Feat. Sinfonia ViVA)”: I wasn’t expecting this; it’s all that I can say. This is not the way you should start a Gorillaz album. It’s not bad; it’s just that it doesn’t suite the mood of bizarre darkness that I think that Gorillaz heavily depends on. The orchestral piece actually is kind of tranquilizing and exquisite. In other note, Sinfonia ViVA is a classical chamber in the UK with pretty cool ideas. I wish I could find more of their work.

2nd track: “Welcome to the World of Plastic Beach (Feat. Snoop Dogg and Hypnotic Brass Ensemble)”: Wow, what a really long title with a really bad name attached to it. Well, as I was foreseeing, it is a horrible horrible song. Just… plain awful. The Hypnotic Brass Ensemble, one of the featured ones on this album, is not given time to do anything, aside from the intro and some small things. Snoop Dogg raps gibberish, like always, with a very boring digital background and a “scratched CD” effect of the brass. Even for the fans of Gorillaz, this can’t be good. “Mirror mirror on the wall/Boss Dawg/Give it to ’em/Get involved/Turn it up/Speed it up/Slow it up/Underground where the under us undercut/Shipped up/Shipped out/Swimmin’ with the sharks/Put my gills up/Turn the wheels up/Real tough/Drinkin’ lemonade in the shade/Getting blade with a gang of pilgrims”, it just doesn’t make sense! This song doesn’t have any good factors AT ALL!

3rd track: “White Flag (feat. Kano, Bashy and The Lebanese National Orchestra for Oriental Arabic Music): It is never a good sign when the featuring list is longer than three times the title. Well, Kano and Bashy are rappers, and the LNOOAM is, well, an orchestra. The only good part of this music is the orchestra part. The rapping rhymes sound really forced out and lacks rhythm and poetry. If the song was all orchestrated, it would’ve had an Arabian Nights atmosphere, thing that it lost with the rapping part. They shouldn’t think that all the songs has to have a rapping part, it doesn’t work that way. The song gets way worse when the vocals come and get really better when the vocals go. In interview, Kano and Bashy said that they both were ill at that time and that because of that it could turn into a disaster. While I have to say it wasn’t as disastrous as the second track, it really isn’t perceivable at all, so, way to go, Kano and Bashy.

4th track: “Rhinestone Eyes”: For those who do not know, Rhinestone is a rock used to fake diamond in various jewels around the world, so it is not considered a cheap stunt to make a people look classier: it’s just to simulate the effect as real Diamonds are rare. For the first time, we hear 2D sing and I thought it was a blessing, but the song overall is boring as hell. The singing is really uninspired, and although present in the other albums, his uninspired vocals did not amuse me here. The background song is awful, and when 2D finally shuts up, the digital shit just comes up and rapes my ear. I really just hoped that 2D sings again, as it is better than hearing the ear rape.

5th track: “Stylo (Feat. Bobby Womack and Mos Def)”: Just to get this over with, Bobby Womack is a singer and songwriter since the early sixties and the only good name that I recognized so far and Mos Def is a rapper. It starts with the rap, but the rap doesn’t go to long to ruin the whole music. 2D singing this time around is really good, and the singing of Bobby Womack, although not my favorite singer, makes a really good contrast with the album so far. The beat gets really tiring to the end, as you start to count the beats to the end of the song. It is quite good, but not near as good as the other masterpieces from previous albums.

6th track: “Superfast Jellyfish (Feat. Gruff Rhys and De La Soul)”: De La Soul. A rapping name I remember. De La Soul is a hip-hop group that played in Feel Good Inc. and are considered to be the authors of the hip hop masterpiece. I have to look at this later, as it may change my musical tastes (or not, probably). Gruff Rhys is a welsh singer that was educated at Ysgol Dyffryn Ogwen, which only means that welsh is funny. It starts with a bizarre breakfast cereal commercial, and after fifteen seconds, the song start. For the first time in the history of the world, I liked the rap part! Before the chorus, the rap part and the beat really complement each other as they go through, as the chorus is really well sung by Gruff with annoying effects that are so quickly done that it does not wear thin. After the first chorus, the rap part becomes a little boring because the beat changes and the rapping don’t. This song is, definitely, the best song so far on the album.

7th track: “Empire Ant (Feat. Little Dragon)”: Well, Little Dragon is an electronic music “band” and I don’t expect much of them. The first half of the song caught me off guard. Although the drum is distracting, 2D singing along with the keyboards is really cool. Not what I was expecting of a song that electronic musicians put their hands into. On the exact half of the song, it changes completely with an electronic twist, but it is still listenable, even as electronic stuff. This song is good, as it still stands-up to the previous song.

8th track: “Glitter Freeze (Feat. Mark E. Smith)”: Mark E. Smith is another name I know: he is the singer of the punk band The Fall. Although I don’t like generic punk, for those who do, you should really check this guy up. Now, to the song, shall we? Oh, hell, this song is horrible. First of all, why feature a singer and don’t have a singing part? I didn’t find the connection, but if he is behind the electronic equipment, he sucks. This is what I was expecting of the last one. This song is shit. It’s just as Daft Punk’s “Short Circuit” beat, only worse. Way worse. This song doesn’t add anything up and it doesn’t sound like it was fun to make, too. Just… just… horrible.

9th track: “Some Kind of Nature (Feat. Lou Reed)”: Third familiar name. It is the singer, guitarist and main songwriter for Velvet Underground. This song is really good as the beat is remarkably entertaining, the duet of 2D with Lou Reed really contrast each other to a point where it combines perfectly, if you know what I mean. The song has a nice feeling to it and doesn’t get boring in the three minutes it have.

10th track: “On Melancholy Hill”: The whole pop style reminds me of Stevie Wonders’ “I Just Called to say I Love You”. The singing got in tune again as it is the depressing style that we all love but with a happy feel to it. It’s not the lyrics that are depressing, the vocals that are. It is a pretty piece and it really should be a popular pick as it is. For the people who don’t like Gorillaz, this should be an easy pick to start listening to it. One of my personal favorites throughout the album.

11th track: “Broken”: Finally an easy to write title. It tries to follow up, but it didn’t please me a whole much. The song has this thing that I can’t describe what I really dislike, go figure. The singing doesn’t sound like 2D on some parts, maybe it’s that, and has a really pop feeling to it. Well, it failed to impress me.

12th track: “Sweepstakes (Feat. Mos Def and Hypnotic Brass Ensemble)”: Just not expecting anything from the title as it is the longest song on the album. And it sure as hell feels like that. The brass works it the entire song which is the good thing about this song, as the uninventive rap plays over it, succeeded and preceded by what I can assume is NES audio files. The rap is mostly gibberish, but it throws kind of deep words that don’t get its message across in the whole “mother fucker” area.

13th track: “Plastic Beach (Feat. Mick Jones and Paul Simonon): Ladies and Gentlemen, I present you The Clash! Mick Jones is the lead guitarist and Paul Simonon is the bassist. Well, it starts with a soft rock touch to it, but it evolves into something like Radiohead. The lyrics are all messy as it kinds of reveal why the album was named “Plastic Beach”: Damon Albarn was at the beach and he got concerned about the overwhelming amount of plastic in the sand. The album itself has this message but it’s not clear enough, since from the beginning of Gorillaz life, it has been told that the world of the Gorillaz has no connection to our world. The song, itself, is easily forgettable as the vocals fade out leaving only the digital part for less than twenty seconds.

14th track: “To Binge (Feat. Feat. Yukimi Nagano)”: This song, in particular, is just bland. The female vocal, again, really surprises me, but not like “All Alone” from Demon Days. The sound from the vocalist of Little Dragon, Yukimi Nagano, doesn’t mix with the song, as it goes on blandly. It’s not bad, but it is definitely not good.

15th track: “Cloud of Unknowing (Feat. Bobby Womack and sinfonia ViVA): This song is melancholic as hell, as the ending to the album approach. The singing of Bobby Womack reminds me of Randy Newman fuses with Cee Lo Green. It is strange, but is the feeling I get. The song could easily be stripped of the vocal and be part of some soundtrack, as it really sets the mood for a silent place in the middle of a city. Even with the vocals it can still set the atmosphere. Although all that, this track in particular will not satisfy at all the die-hard fans of Gorillaz. It is dark and shady, but it is uncharacteristic to the style of music so far.

16th track: “Pirate Jet”: I thought it would be a collaboration song with everybody since the album itself seems to be centered around the fact that industries are ruining the planet, and I thought that part of the reason the album is so founded on collaboration was to suggest that if we all work together, we may change things, but I was wrong, I think. Although, admittedly, the album doesn’t official end in this song as there is two bonus tracks in other albums, the album I have in hands ends with this one, so farewell the other two. This song has the most uninspired 2D singing ever as the background is boring as hell. The back vocals are shitty and the song, overall, is repetitive. It is a bad ending for a kind of good album.

So, how did it all hold up? Well, this album came as a surprise, since I was getting ready to dismiss it as being third rate material from a project that already gave everything they got for the cause, but it has good moments. It’s not good as Demon Days, and definitely not good as the Debut Album, but it really shines where it has too. There were three or four songs that bored the hell out of me as there were songs that I really enjoyed. The thing is: I didn’t see this as a Gorillaz album. It sounds more like a collab project with a bunch of guys then 2D, Murdoc, Noodles and Russell rocking around, like their previous works. If Damon Albarn tries to do another Gorillaz album as I’m sure he will, he would do best if he did more like the debut album and forget these “celebrities”.

This is JotaKa, signing off.

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3 Responses to Album in Depth: Plastic Beach by Gorillaz

  1. Mother duck hopped up on a log and ducklings did as well. Musical Instruments

  2. Pingback: Album in Depth: The Fall by Gorillaz | Jotaka's Studio

  3. Thomas says:

    Someone who doesn’t like lyrics which are not comprehensive for him is someone who just likes commercial musics. Actually, can’t you try interpretate by yourself your own version of the lyrics and stop writing stupidities ? No. It must be too difficult for your tiny person.

    I apologie for the grammatical mistakes, but I’m a 15-year-old French boy. 😉

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