Gorillaz albums come around infrequently enough for me to forget that I never enjoy them in their entirety. I only remember those few great addictive hits which haunt me in between releases. Like Demon Days, I bought Plastic Beach without hearing a single track in advance. I put my trust in front man Damon Albarn to deliver another great album, and that he has done (with the help of a lot of guests)…just not as great as his last effort.
The “Orchestral Intro” made me immediately aware that this album was going to be something special, so imagine my disappointment when it took so long to get to that point. Snoop Dogg does not enhance the catchy “Welcome to the World of the Plastic Beach” and the lovely intro to “White Flag” is a teaser for an awful track. Finally things pick up when Albarn sings on “Rhinestone Eyes”, and then “Stylo” appears. It’s not my favourite song from Plastic Beach, but it’s easy to recognise as single material (and is indeed the first). Even Mos Def can’t ruin it—as he does with the absolutely horrid “Sweepstakes” later in the album. And the next track…oh, do I have to?
When I listen to new albums I do my best to predict what the singles will be. This time, I got two out of three, and I have no idea how I could have guessed that one of the most grating tracks would be the second. On May 9th, look forward to avoiding… “Superfast Jellyfish” featuring de la Soul, who collaborated on Demon Days’ “Feel Good Inc.” What the hell happened this time? It’s…it’s honestly not worth commenting on. You’ll hear it enough on the radio in a few months.
But fear not! Then comes the run of greatness the opening seagulls promised me, packed between the two worst. My favourites of the bunch are “Empire Ants” and “Melancholy Hill”, the latter being the best song on the album (which will be the third single later in 2010, presumably to win back fans turned off by the Jellyfish one). The title track was my other pick for a single; it begins the solid, but not particularly inspiring, cooldown. I hoped for an orchestra reappearance and seagull number at the very end, but they are in the penultimate track for some reason, leaving “Private Jet” sounding tacked on.
If Gorillaz had cut the weak-ass tone (mos) deaf rappers from this album, it would have made me oh-so-happy. I love to hear rap well done, but the best are rarely the ones who make it mainstream. Try Vancouver’s DNA6 for an example of what I’d love to see mixed with Gorillaz’ experimental-pseudo-pop.
I recommend the album, but cut “White Flag”, “Superfast Jellyfish”, and “Sweepstakes” from your iPod. It has a great sound overall, and is perfect to chill-out to, but where is the “Clint Eastwood”? “Feel Good Inc.”? “DARE”? Maybe my next spontaneous Gorillaz purchase four-to-five years from now will have a new song of the calibre I expect and crave.