Plastic Beach is the debut album from Damon Albarn and his Magical Super Squad. The Squad is led by Captain Albarn, and is filled out by the rest of his team of All-Stars, such as Snoop Dogg, Mos Def, Lou Reed, De La Soul, etc. Gorillaz album?!?!? Oh right, this a Gorillaz album! My bad. But upon comparison to their last two releases (2001’s Gorillaz and 2005’s Demon Days), Plastic Beach is in an entirely different dimension.
While still retaining their eccentric brand of trip hop/rock on tracks like “Rhinestone Eyes” and “Broken” (both fantastic), Albarn, with a nasty band of collaborators, fool around with all sorts of musical flavours.
The beautiful orchestrated opener welcomes listeners into the World of the Plastic Beach. Snoop Dogg is disgustingly cool on this track, spitting out line after dirty line over a heavy, atmospheric Mezzanine-esque rhythm courtesy of the Hypnotic Brass Ensemble, while U.K. rappers Bashy and Kano throw down the most electrifying delivery I have heard in the while on “White Flag,” sandwiched in the middle of an incredible Middle-Eastern orchestral piece. “Stylo” is already an awesome electro-funk groove thanks to Mos Def’s brief but memorable appearance before Bobby Womack absolutely explodes into the track, turning a great single into so much more.
Little Dragon, or Yukimi Nagano, depending on who is asking, features on “To Binge”, but is absolutely fucking epic on “Empire Ants.” Beginning with an ambient, bossa nova beat filled out by Albarn’s vocals (his most memorable on the entire album), it progresses into a trippy, airy electronica soundscape which would make Junior Boys or James Murphy cry with envy, before Nagano’s whispery, beautiful voice turns transform this song into one that will be in my head for months.
As mentioned before, this doesn’t feel like a Gorillaz album because cartoon bands don’t make albums as amazing as this one. Genre swapping from dark trip-hop to ambient soul to the completely fucking weird, this environmentally-focused album asks that Gorillaz be taken much more seriously. – by Luca Capone