Gorillaz: Plastic Beach
I am always skeptical of new bands that the main stream immediately accepts. This is especially true when I see the term hip-hop associated with it (not a big fan). However, I have been hearing some interesting things about Gorillaz. The whole virtual band thing is enough, but Mick Jones and Paul Simonon are in the live lineup! (The Clash, look it up). So in an effort to keep my mind open, I decided to check out “Plastic Beach.”
The unexpected seems to be what this group is all about. I have heard a gimmicky classical opening before, but this one is fully fleshed out. Then “Welcome to the World of the Plastic Beach” brings in the hip-hop, and a guest appearance by Snoop Dogg. My first instinct was to turn it off, but I actually started to like it. The combination of techno and wordplay works very well. It also doesn’t hurt that the lyrics are intelligent.
Next comes “White Flag” with a British Reggaeton component. The big surprise is an Eastern orchestral lead in that could have been at home on a Steve Hackett album. For the most part it is a bit of silliness injected with a heavy dose of integrity.
“Rhinestone Eyes” is a pretty basic techno rap. Once again what sets it apart is thoughtful lyrics.
Things get different on “Stylo.” Techno yes, but much further from hip-hop. The music comes close to psychedelic, except when the heavy soul vocal comes in.
A playful aspect permeates everywhere, but it comes to full fruition on “Superfast Jellyfish.” Commentaries on breakfast cereals and “Neptune and his water breathers” bring smiles, as do whimsical 60’s style chorus vocals.
These odd combinations are what make these tunes so weird, and also what makes the music work. “On Melancholy Hill” sounds like a song written by The Flaming Lips, and “Some Kind of Nature” could have been penned and sung by Lou Reed (oh wait… it is). “Empire Ants” could have been a hit in the mid ’80s, and “Sweepstakes” is pure spittin’ (with better music than is usually afforded). As the album progresses there is more actual singing than rapping.
It’s an unusual amalgam, but is it original? Not completely. Cibo Matto and Latyrx pioneered trip-hop back in the ’90s, and Beck has been blending and sampling styles for years. Guest appearances by lumiarinaries such as De la Soul, Mos Def and Bobby Womack are also nothing new. However, this feels fresh. I can appreciate what these guys are doing. A breath of fresh air needs to be blown into the stagnant music scene. Especially when it comes to techno, Indie, R&B and hip-hop. Thus why Gorillas is kicking all of these genres in the ass. I don’t think “Plastic Beach” is a supreme revelation, but it is definitely worthy of attention
This kind of music is not something I would normally gravitate to but I like it. Would I rush to pull it out of my collection? No, but nor would I skip it when it comes up on iPod rotation. This has everything to do with personal taste, not quality. If Gorillaz is the type of genre (whatever that may be) you enjoy, then it doesn’t get much better. Plus it’s a lot of fun.
Stuart “2D” Tusspot – lead vocals, keyboards
Murdoc Niccals – bass
Noodle – lead guitar, keyboards, backing vocals
Russel Hobbs – drums, percussion, D.J., M.C.
Cyborg Noodle – lead guitar