The third full-length album from the Gorillaz is quite a potpourri of genre and style — “Plastic Beach” plays more like a mix tape than an established band’s tight concept. But what else could we expect from a duo made up of comic book creator Jamie Hewlett and Britpop superstar Damon Albarn, whose brand-new album features 20 artists ranging from Mos Def to Lou Reed on 15 of the 19 total tracks? Unfortunately, for that very reason, “Plastic Beach” really is kind of a mess, but what it lacks in unity it makes up for with emotion. In fact, if there is a common thread throughout the album, it is the gloomy soundscapes that have become synonymous with Hewlett and Albarn’s work. Another positive note about “Plastic Beach” is that there are more decent tracks than bad and the ambient muzak-esque hum that makes some of the tracks forgettable work together to create a moody electro-pop atmosphere. Obviously, it’s not for everybody. If you find more solace in the catchy hooks of Top 40 pop music, you may want to stay away. However, Gorillaz enthusiasts and fans of experimental electro-hop are sure to enjoy this moody hodgepodge of new wave art.
1. “Glitter Freeze” — Catchy Fischerspooner beat outlined with the echo of laser beams. Momentum carries this tune with the only words being scattered sound bites.
2. “Stylo” — By far my favorite. Hard-driving Kraftwerk-esque beat with Mos def and Booby Womack helping out on vocals.
3. “To Binge” — Think Yoshi robotically swaying to the menu of a Super Mario Bros. island world. Damon’s sleepy vocals and high-pitched synth create a dreamy tropical atmosphere — A Plastic Beach, perhaps?
4. “Some Kind of Nature” — Lou Reed’s grizzled voice gives this tune character while Damon sings the most memorable chorus of the album. Finally, something we can sing along to.
1. “On Melancholy Hill” — Boring 80s synth beat. This is a song where the words may be more important than the music. The Cherlike auto-tune sound effects make for a huge turnoff and this track ultimately turns into a melancholy disappointment.
2. “Cloud of Unknowing” — If you are a fan of Bobby Womack’s silky voice you might like this slow jam. The rest of us, however, will be rolling our eyes and glancing at the clock.
3. “Empire Ants” — Let the momentum build before you completely write this track off. Unfortunately, this tune never quite hits the bull’s-eye and quickly becomes forgettable.