When cartoon group Gorillaz emerged in 2001, it didn’t promise to be more than a temporary distraction, a foray into hip-hop from former Blur frontman Damon Albarn. With a mix of Brit pop, rap and electronic influences, Albarn and his ‘toon troupe delivered an eclectic product, yet the potential had obviously not been realized.
Now into the group’s third full-length, Albarn has found a formula that works. The hip-hop aspect is on point with collaborators Mos Def and De La Soul contributing to some of the album’s most potent tracks.
Rock elements resonate even louder as Lou Reed and members of The Clash bolster Albarn’s prowess. But it is the symphonic addition of orchestras and brass sections that propel the album from mere genre-mixing to an opus about an island of trash.
Dive Verdict: 4.5 of 5 stars
Songs such as “Sweepstakes” epitomize the influx of styles. As Mos Def’s verbose rhymes stream on for five minutes, Casio sound effects parallel the rich horns of Hypnotic Brass Ensemble, creating a dynamic combination with no component overpowering the other.
Grime rappers over Lebanese strings and Bobby Womack cantillating on a “Knight Rider”-esque melody are only blips on the map Albarn has created.
The tracklist plays to the emotion of the listener. From the innocence of a Saturday morning commercial on “Superfast Jellyfish” to the title track’s fearful ecological outcome, Plastic Beach is like a life cycle that replenishes and begins anew.
Gorillaz’ existence was in jeopardy before work on the album even began. But if this is the last we hear from Murdoc, 2D, Noodle and Russel, at least they’ve made the perfect swan song.
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