Gorillaz – [Album]

Wednesday, 07 April 2010

Heed this warning! This article is not impartial. It’s biased. You see, I wouldn’t say, "I’m a Damon Albarn fan"; I’d say, "I’m a sucker for him."

Any review of mine covering the new Gorillaz album, Plastic Beach, will probably just come off as an ode to the former Blur front man.

That said, I reached out to the public and got some of the best thoughts I could find on Twitter. It was a collaborative effort on opinion forming, I guess. Over the last few weeks, I ran a search on my TweetDeck and found some good quips about the third album from Jamie Hewlett, Damon Albarn and friends. [ed. – SIC]

@PokeHipster Plastic beach is amazing, much cooler then other gorillaz albums

@AwaleA the gorillaz plastic beach deals with consumerism and ecology, interesting

@DC87live #nowplaying Gorillaz Plastic beach..real musical

@tomerik Gorillaz-Plastic Beach не плохой альбом, отлично подходит для утра понедельника!

I can’t say I really understood that last tweet, or that any of that was informative. But, I had to let you know that I was taking other opinions into consideration. Now, let's get into my take on the album.

With Albarn taking over the production reigns (duties previously handled by Dan the Automator and later, Danger Mouse), an older crew shows up, laying down some heavy rhythms which may lack in youthful exuberance but are full of wilted wisdom. Plastic Beach not only revives the career of Bobby Womack (who had never heard of the band), but it makes Lou Reed seem relevant, again. Both "Stylo" and "Some Kind of Nature," respectively, offer a much more mature but funky sound and leave no doubt in your mind that quality never goes out of style.

I believe @PokeHipster said it best when he remarked that this album is truly different from the Gorillaz’s previous efforts, relying less on the strength of the talented lyricists appearing on tracks and more on Albarn’s impressive skills as a producer. Past albums really felt like a mix between some cool underground rap, and Damon trying to leave his Brit pop career behind him. Plastic Beach is an all Gorillaz album (whatever the name that has defined this ever changing line-up, means). There’s simply no way that this band, these songs can or this brand of music can be considered a gimmick, any longer.

Bringing in Welshman Gruff Rhys on "Superfast Jellyfish," the Gorillaz further dive into the depths of their playful side, mixing it in with a little of that rap that made their previous albums so fun to listen to. My favorite song comes a few tracks later with "On Melancholy Hill." The whimsical music in the background and Damon’s voice really make for the perfect song to wake up to. Despite the grim name, this track really leaves an optimistic feeling in your brain. One listen to "Rhinestone Eyes," tells you all you need to ever know about being cool. And, if its being hip you’re worried about, just do yourself a favor and keep away from the "Stylo" music video. I’m not sure anyone can be better than that.

For once, this Gorillaz album feels like a solid unit. All of the songs belong together. There was an idea and it carried across and it left a satisfied crowd in its wake.


The Gorrillaz – "Stylo" –
Plastic Beach


Plastic Beach is out now. Buy it on Amazon.


Gorillaz – [Album]

Thursday, 29 November 2007

While I have to admit that my heterosexual crush on Damon Albarn failed to reach frightening proportions until I first heard The Good, The Bad and The Queen, I’ve always been a huge fan of his work with Blur and Gorillaz. His Britpop days with the former cemented him as a star in Europe; yet, it wasn’t until his work with latter (the animated band named after a couple of monkeys) that he garnered the widespread attention of Americans.

Naturally, when I stumbled upon the news of the new Gorillaz release, D-Sides, I jumped at the chance to check it out. This two-disc set includes previously unreleased b-sides from Demon Days and remixes of a few songs off the same album. And, since I can find no clear and/or reliable source as to what the hell is going on with this band, this 22-song collection is just going to have to feed my addiction for a while.

The first disc of D-Sides provides a work-in-progress view of a few Gorillaz songs ("People" as an early version of "Dare" and the original demo of "Don’t Get Lost In Heaven"). Normally, I’d concede to the argument of one Patton Oswalt, famous for making reference to Jon Voight’s testicles while discussing the futility of witnessing art’s origins. However, the bare bones, basic version of "Don’t Get Lost in Heaven" is fascinating. Gone is the dreamy and wistful sense, as Albarn’s voice lazily drones on top of some campy beats. How they got from this version to the one I spent a year of my life waking up to, goes even further to elevate the genius status of what this group has accomplished. "Rockit," which they used in promotion for Demon Days—but inexplicably left off the album—is something that everyone should listen to more than once at a time. Using non-verbals and robot voices to compose a song is more than I could hope for. For the most part, the first disc is composed of the more mellow side of Gorillaz, and the tempo jumps up a notch on the following set of tracks.

On disc two, there are three different versions of their hit "Dare," reworked by DFA, Soulwax and Junior Sanchez respectively, the last of which infuses a beat sounding something like to Eddy Grant’s classic "Electric Avenue." My favorite track on this side has to be Jamie T’s version of "Kids With Guns," as I can still hear Damon echoing the words "They’re turning us into monsters" in my head as I write these words.

Alas, if you’re a casual Gorillaz fan, this album may not be for you. Its more or less a collection of old work and has little to offer to someone merely in search of the next hit from this group. Suffice to say, they probably weren’t reaching out to new audiences on this attempt. However, for someone like me (a borderline junkie of this band) D-Sides will hold me over until the next project is released. My only hope now is that Damon Albarn never reads this, as I’m sure he’ll think he has a stalker on his hands.

D-Sides is available now.

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