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Gorillaz Concept Surges on Plastic Beach

Today, The Creation of Adam welcomes guest blogger Paul Tsikitas, who writes about music at In the Wake of Poseidon.


When Snoop Dogg first welcomed me to the world of Plastic Beach, I was unaware of what a strange and wonderful world I was getting myself into. Gorillaz is usually synonymous with fantastic collaborations and excruciatingly catchy tunes, yet at first glance, Plastic Beach seems like too many collaborations, musically very different from their 2001 self-titled debut and 2005’s Demon Days. The album doesn’t pick up with its catchiest tunes until five tracks deep, when the album’s first single, the ultra groovy and funky "Stylo" kicks in. This sounds like I’m knocking it, but quite the contrary. Although this won’t be many listeners' go-to Gorillaz album, especially when you are looking to party, this is easily the Gorillaz' finest album as an art form.

Plastic Beach is a concept album that is all about environmental disaster and the artifice of our world culture. It's a sprawling record with loads of tracks varying in sound and style. While this sound is more complex and much more synthetic, it perfectly mirrors the themes of an artificial utopia. This isn't to say there aren’t any organic sounds to be found. A song like "White Flag" brings in an Eastern string section juxtaposed with some excellent rhymes care of British rappers Bashy and Kano and a flourishing back beat.

The sounds are constantly shifting and bringing different moods and feeling onto the shores of Plastic Beach. There are slower, poppier ballads like the Grandaddyesque "On Melancholy Hill" or the fabulous slow space ballad "Empire Ants", both of which are excellent moments of clarity on the album. Then there are the catchier numbers like the infectious and skewering "Superfast Jellyfish" or the frenetic Mos Def jam "Sweepstakes." These songs have layer after layer of compounding sound. It's a lot to take in, as the sound is far more complex than some of the more simplistic moments in the Gorillaz catalog.

If there is anything evident here, it's that Damon Albarn and Jamie Hewlett have evolved the Gorillaz into something beyond a fictitious cartoon group of primates pounding out dance floor-ready tunes. This time around, they are making a social statement as well as taking Gorillaz into new direction. The frenzy of guest stars from Lou Reed to Bobby Womack proves that Gorillaz is a collective genius. Albarn and gang have a great pulse on high quality pop music with an introspective touch. Plastic Beach is sure to be one of the more memorable records of the year and one of the best to kick off a new decade.

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