Far from tracks like “Feel Good, Inc.”, “DARE”, and “19-2000”, this album is much more low key and quite frankly, doesn’t sound a damn bit like Gorillaz. There is absolutely no discernible, in your face dance track on this album, but it’s full of funky, hip-hop beats and orchestral undertones. You actually hear Albarn very little on this album, only on a few tracks including “Rhinestone Eyes”, “Broken”, and “On Melancholy Hill”. For the rest of the album, he passes the microphone to any number of collaborators including Snoop Dogg, Mos Def, De La Soul, Little Dragon, Lou Reed, and Bobby Womack.
Gorillaz has always been a whirlwind of artistic motions… collaborative efforts of musicians, filmmakers, cartoonists, and more lend hand to making these albums. Though it may have been primarily produced by Albern, there’s a lot of hands in that pot.
This album is full of cultural references, mostly to do with ecology and consumerism.
From Paul Morley:
“The first time Albarn went to Mali, he was taken to a landfill where he saw people “taking every little bit, a little bit of fabric to the fabric regenerators, or the metal and the cans to the ironsmiths and the aluminum recyclers, and it goes on and by the time you get to the road, they’re selling stuff.” When Albarn went to a landfill outside of London to record the sound of seagulls for the album, he noticed a juxtaposition between the way the two countries dealt with rubbish. “They’ve got more snakes… like adders, grass snakes, slow worms, toads, frogs, newts, all kinds of rodents, all kinds of squirrels, a massive amount of squirrels, a massive amount of foxes, and obviously, seagulls. […] This is part of the new ecology. And for the first time I saw the world in a new way. I’ve always felt, I’m trying to get across on this new record, the idea that plastic, we see it as being against nature but it’s come out of nature. We didn’t create plastic, nature created plastic. And just seeing the snakes like living in the warmth of decomposing plastic bags. They like it. It was a strange kind of optimism that I felt… but trying to get that into pop music is a challenge, anyway. But important.”
So not only has Albarn created yet another amazing Gorillaz album, he’s again filled it with actual meaning and story. There’s always a story. In a world where so much meaningless pop drivel is pumped out, it’s refreshing to see something a little more driven.
Once you get over the fact that this album sounds nothing actually like Gorillaz, it’s a really good album. You can check it out, streaming on their Myspace now. B
“Welcome to the World of the Plastic Beach”