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Music Review: Gorillaz – Plastic Beach


The art of Jamie Hewlett

Freakin’ fantastic, fresh funky fun might be the best description of Plastic Beach the new album from the cartoon band Gorillaz.  Plastic Beach features performers that can bring the funk including Snoop Dogg,  Mos Def, and De La Soul.  The fun comes from the clever musical wit of Gorillaz co-founder Damon Albarn and the way he mixes so many musical styles.

Plastic Beach has something for everyone.  It is an eclectic mix of cultures and world music.  Rap, Jazz, Rock, Electronic, Classical, Hip-Hop, and even Oriental Arabic music are represented and fused to create wonderfully fun danceable tracks.

Gorillaz is a virtual band from the imagination of Blur frontman Damon Albarn and Tank Girl co-creator and artist Jamie Hewlett.  The band is personified by four animated characters created by Hewlett, but Albarn is the only real full-time performer.  Other performers appear as guests to achieve Albarn’s music vision.

Albarn masterfully combines different and sometimes contrasting styles to engage the listener.  Sinfonia ViVA provides classical style to open Plastic Beach and then Snoop Dogg welcomes the listener as only Snoop can along with the jazz stylings of Hypnotic Brass Ensemble.  The Lebanese National Orchestra for Oriental Arabic Music sets the stage for Bashy and Kano to protest the wars in the Middle East in rap on White Flag.  The first release from the album, Stylo, features the electronically altered voice of Mos Def the gospel voice of ’60s pop star Bobby Womack.  Say “Ooooow!”

There are no bad tracks on Plastic Beach, but here are the ones you may want to party with:

Welcome to the World of the Plastic Beach – features Snoop Dogg being Snoop Dogg.   The cool factor goes up because it supported by the Hypnotic Brass Ensemble and a really relaxed, mellow bass line.

White Flag – the Oriental Arabic sounds of the Lebanese National Orchestra for Oriental Arabic Music are exotic.  The rap dialog between Bashy and Kano is sweet.  It’s funny to me to hear rap with an English accent.

Gorillaz Plastic Beach

Gorillaz Plastic Beach

Stylo – catchy bass line and trance like build up leads to a catharsis provided by Bobby Womack and then repeats. How cool.

Superfast Jellyfish – the name is an oxymoron so it has to be silly.  It is.  Makes me want to find out what happened to De La Soul after “Me, Myself and I.”

Glitter Freeze – high energy yet surreal techno style with dubbed in voice-overs from Mark E. Smith of The Fall.  This will get into somebody’s club mix soon.

Some Kind of Nature – electronic pop tune with Lou Reedon vocals. Enough said.

On Melancholy Hill – pop love song that is not at all melancholy.  I could bounce around my house in my socks to this.

I considered adding Empire Ants to this list.  Empire Ants is a tale of two halves.  The first half is slow and melancholy.  The second half feature Swedish pop band Little Dragon and the tone and pace pick-up to match any Abba song.

As mentioned earlier, there is something for everyone here.   Plastic Beach can be listened to from begin to end, or tracks can be pulled to make a dance mix.  Either case will bring immense musical pleasure.

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