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Plastic Beach
Plastic Beach
Genres: Pop, Rock
  •  Track Listings (16) - Disc #1

Five years on from the release of Demon Days, Murdoc Niccals and co. return with Plastic Beach. The band have taken up residence, recording on a secret floating island deep in the South Pacific, a Plastic Beach HQ, made up...  more »


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CD Details

All Artists: Gorillaz
Title: Plastic Beach
Members Wishing: 2
Total Copies: 0
Label: Virgin Records
Original Release Date: 1/1/2010
Re-Release Date: 3/9/2010
Genres: Pop, Rock
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaCD Credits: 1
Other Editions: Plastic Beach
UPC: 5099962754729


Product Description
Five years on from the release of Demon Days, Murdoc Niccals and co. return with Plastic Beach. The band have taken up residence, recording on a secret floating island deep in the South Pacific, a Plastic Beach HQ, made up of the detritus, debris and washed up remnants of humanity. This Plastic Beach is the furthest point from any landmass on Earth; the most deserted spot on the planet.

The world s biggest animated band, Gorillaz formed in 1998, and have since sold 12 million copies over two albums Gorillaz (2000) and Demon Days (2005). They have hit number 1 in more than a dozen countries and picked up awards including Grammys, Novellos, VMAs and EMAs.

Plastic Beach is produced by Gorillaz.

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CD Reviews

Not quite Demon Days, but brilliant in parts.
Angry Mofo | 03/09/2010
(4 out of 5 stars)

""Empire Ants" starts off like the nice-but-boring ballads from the last Blur album. Then it suddenly explodes into a dazzling rush of impossibly clean keyboards and Yukimi Nagano's lost, spaced-out vocals. It is an incredible, beautiful contrast with Damon Albarn's conventional balladeering in the beginning.

Ultimately, Plastic Beach isn't as visionary as Demon Days (surely one of the top five albums of the 2000s), but when it does come together, there's nothing else like it. The album's other peak is the lead single "Stylo," which unsurprisingly bears the most resemblance to the dark mood of Demon Days. It's packed with even more brilliant left-field juxtapositions than "Feel Good Inc." The music is based on a cold pinpoint-techno crawl with dark keyboard overlays. The lead vocal is passed from a smooth vocoded rap by Mos Def, to Albarn's fragile lost soul (much like in "Feel Good Inc."), to a colossal, histrionic turn by soul legend Bobby Womack. The smooth, easy way with which these three very different vocal styles alternate is remarkable, and the first two vocalists create a restrained counterpoint to Womack's overpowering, force-of-nature voice.

Alas, "Stylo" is the only time Plastic Beach flirts with darkness. The other catchy pop moments are of a more comic, whimsical nature. "Superfast Jellyfish" has De La Soul on lead vocals, but it's really a classicist British pop song masquerading as hip-hop. It has more in common with catchy, fey Blur songs like "For Tomorrow" and "Charmless Man" (and with predecessors like the Kinks) than with rap or electronic music. I predict that it will be massively popular in Britain, but I personally prefer the more dramatic tone of Demon Days.

Albarn produces the album himself this time, and it shows. Aside from the one brilliant moment in "Empire Ants," there are no sudden, abrupt shifts like the crashing rap verse in "Dirty Harry" or the move from keyboards to acoustic guitar to strings in "Last Living Souls." That was a large part of what made Demon Days so captivating -- you never knew what was coming next, even over the course of one song. Plastic Beach is less unpredictable.

Furthermore, Albarn's background in Britpop leads him to make less effective use of the rappers than previous producer Danger Mouse. On "White Flag," Albarn tries to create an unconventional Gorillaz juxtaposition by putting a string and woodwind section together with rapping. Unfortunately, instead of flowing together seamlessly like "Dirty Harry," it sounds really jarring. I think Kano and Bashy have an awkward flow, especially when compared to the effortless way in which Bootie Brown dominated a much more complex rhythm-and-strings combination on Demon Days. Additionally, "Sweepstakes" is a very ungainly and repetitive song (unfortunately much longer than "White Light") -- Mos Def basically yells a few lines over and over, a far cry from his own performance in "Stylo."

The huge number of collaborations on Plastic Beach means less than the sum of its parts. What's the point of getting Mark E. Smith on your album if you only have him sing a couple of lines? "Glitter Freeze" may have Smith's name on it, but it's basically an instrumental -- a good one, but you'd expect more. "Superfast Jellyfish" has Gruff Rhys on the chorus, but he sounds completely identical to Albarn. The title track features Mick Jones and Paul Simonon of the Clash, but there's nothing about it that really stands out from any other Gorillaz song. If Jones is participating in the vocals, I couldn't tell him from Albarn either.

On the plus side, "Some Kind Of Nature" features a hugely appealing performance by Lou Reed. His bemused affectations, together with the music-hall backing, make him sound like a more gravelly-voiced version of Bowie. The positive tone is really infectious, and Albarn provides a bit of creeping melancholy in the chorus. Furthermore, Snoop Dogg is the perfect choice for "Welcome To The World Of The Plastic Beach." His extremely lazy, luxuriant style is an ideal match for the tropical-resort image of the "plastic beach," and he offers a generally positive message, but his voice always has this sleazy, threatening undercurrent that is also perfect for Albarn's vision of "plastic" debris. The glitzy, chintzy horns blaring throughout the track are a great touch, creating a seductively futuristic, extravagant sound.

Also, Albarn always has Britpop balladry to fall back on. He finds two gems in this vein: "Rhinestone Eyes," where woozy synth-funk combines with his detached speak-singing (surprisingly poignant when it leans toward singing at the end of a line), and the gently rolling "On Melancholy Hill." Other songs like "Broken" cover the same emotional territory, but "Rhinestone Eyes" is by far the best.

I think we all wanted this to be the ultimate globe-trotting, ultra-hip, futuristic album. Actually, Plastic Beach is more like The Great Escape to Demon Days' Parklife. It has more pop, more hooks, more collaborations, more everything, and sometimes it's even better, but still, it was Demon Days that really nailed the mood of the decade. Plastic Beach doesn't have the same effect, but it has moments of brilliant inspiration."
Early Album of 2010 Candidate
Anthony Cantu | Kansas City, MO | 03/10/2010
(5 out of 5 stars)

"I open this review with a very strong piece of advice: please listen to this album in its entirety. Then come back to it within a day or two (or sooner, if you are so inclined) and give it a second listen from beginning to end. If you do that, unless you really dislike "this kind of music", I'm relatively certain you will be enchanted with the album permanently. Plastic Beach is truly an amazing work.

Keep the following thoughts in mind as you navigate through other reviews of Plastic Beach. First, immediately discount any that express disillusion that this album is not the sequel to its stellar predecessor, Demon Days (2005). Comparisons to Demon Days (and, by extension, the 2001 self-titled debut album) are useful to the extent they allow you to see how the Gorillaz sound has evolved over the course of a decade. To truly appreciate this work fairly, however, you should judge it on the strength of its own merits. Moreover, this review is being written the day of its United States release, and there are currently a handful of reviews that rate the album poorly. These reviews seem to have a few things in common: they show very little regard to not only the craftsmanship and genius behind this work, but seem to be written from a jaded aspect that belies someone writing against a deadline and only taking time to listen to the album once (if they even listened that much).

That said, while this album isn't perfection personified, it really is quite good, easily earning a 9 out of 10 rating. Below I will grade each track individually, but first I want to address the album as a whole. Clocking in at just under an hour, this album is a cohesive whole that takes you on a sonic journey full of unlikely sights and stops along the way (often even within the individual songs themselves). It's not surprising that this album in its formative stages was originally named "Carousel" by its loving architect, musical wizard Damon Albarn. The album is a special kind of ride. At times the album makes you think, but not too hard, because it doesn't purport to take a stand on any of the issues it brings to the surface. Other times the album makes you want to sing along, but not too loudly, because you want to be able to appreciate the artistry at work in each song. Most importantly, the album makes you feel emotion. Whether it be exhilaration, abandon, wonderment, or disquiet, you feel it with force.

On to the snapshots of each song in the US track-list.

1) Orchestral Intro -- 4/5

This track lets you know you are headed somewhere important and maybe just a little bit different. If you listen closely, the fade-out carries a hint of distortion, which I take as an indication that the nature you are about to experience is quite unnatural.

2) Welcome to The World of The Plastic Beach -- 3/5

There's probably no truer living representation of hip-hop than Snoop Dogg, and he serves as an apropos master of ceremonies welcoming you to your destination. Snoop has always had a unique five-star flow, and it's on full display on this track. Ever since his debut album Doggystyle (1993), however, he has an uneven track-record of bringing the heat to whatever song he's spitting rhymes on. The frustrating thing about Snoop is that both the listener and he are in on the fact that many times he is as lazy a lyricist as the flow of his trademark delivery, and that is indeed the case in this song, using trite expressions like "Boss Dogg" (not once, but twice), "mirror, mirror on the wall" and "crack-a-lackin". For the record, my wife thinks that Snoop did exactly what he was supposed to do on this track: introduce, not steal the stage. Regardless, aided by the sick horns of the Hypnotic Brass Ensemble, this song helps get you in the mood to groove.

3) White Flag -- 3/5

A light, flighty orchestral piece by the Lebanese National Orchestra For Oriental and Arabic Music (I think I got that right...) takes you to Bollywood and some other exotic places you've probably never been to as you skip across the sand of Plastic Beach for the first time. You are suddenly greeted by a hot potato back-and-forth rap between British grime rap stars Kano and Bashy set to a dub beat. Their wordplay forms the musical meat sandwiched between the previously mentioned beginning of the track and its conclusion, which is a synthesis of the orchestral part and the dub beat. The final outcome is both an unlikely treat and treatise from your locale.

4) Rhinestone Eyes -- 5/5

This song has video single written all over it. 2D's vocals take center stage for the first time. It's a heavily synthesized pop tune complete with catchy not-quite-a-chorus repeats of the phrase "Love Electric-tric-tric-tric-tric" that you can only imagine yourself chanting alongside Noodle. This song also carries that signature "Gorillaz sound" of keyboards and drumbeats that can be traced back to their debut album. This song is definitely one of the reasons I regard the album so highly.

5) Stylo -- 5/5

The lead single and video from the album. "Feel Good, Inc." it is not, but this fact only adds to "Stylo"'s charm. An unyielding beat accentuated by an insidious, haunting repetition of the phrase "Overload", a slick verse from Mos Def, and the undeniable raw power of Bobby Womack make this song an instant classic. You don't get "Stylo" at first, you just know it has a catchy beat. After multiple listens, though, you realize the song is consummate. It is worth mentioning that essential to the whole Gorillaz concept is the fact that their music is both an audio and visual experience. Taken in that light, the promotional video shot for this track by co-creator Jaime Hewlett does an excellent job of immediately engaging the audience and drawing them into Plastic Beach.

6) Superfast Jellyfish -- 4/5

Rumored to be the second video and single from the album, this song is dripping with sinister irony. De La Soul become the first rap artists to score a follow-up opportunity with the Gorillaz, and they do not disappoint in this twisted indictment of consumerism, cloaked in a breakfast meal jingle. Though not as in-your-face and extreme as, say, Johnathan Swift's 1729 pamphlet "A Modest Proposal" the implications of this song are meant to be frightening. Gruff Rhys also lends his vocals to the track that is both scary and scary good.

7) Empire Ants -- 5/5

The beautiful, peaceful beginning of this song shows Plastic Beach at its most serene. The guitar makes a rare appearance, and it strums blissfully along in concert with 2D's singing and piano accompaniment. Then, halfway through, the song it improbably explodes into a shimmering disco-pop tune completed by the vocals of Yukumi Nagano from the Swedish group, Little Dragon. This may very well be the album's best song, though "Broken" gives it a serious run for its money a few songs later.

8) Glitter Freeze -- 2/5

Personal preference here, but this is my least favorite song of the lot. Mostly instrumental with a few sparse words from curmudgeon Mark E Smith, this song is an aural assault on your eardrums and mind. Often, after this song ends, I'm relieved, because it feels like I've just been willingly violated, which might just be a microcosm for one of the tenets of the album, namely the willful violation of our own home planet. But just as soon as you begin to contemplate that we are off to our next song.

9) Some Kind of Nature -- 3/5

Many are split on this Lou Reed guest effort, where his sing-song voice takes Albarn's piano-based beatnik ditty for a quick spin. Some hail it as the watermark of Plastic Beach, while others decry it as its nadir. The song comes pre-loaded with a fully realized chorus and simulated clapping that beckons singing along. I'm still not sure what to make of it all, I find myself in neither of the previously mentioned camps of supporters or naysayers, but I believe it is a solid addition to the album regardless.

10) On Melancholy Hill -- 5/5

An endearing track. Listen closely and you'll hear a rhythm that lies beneath Coldplay's "Viva La Vida" and the song it borrowed heavily from "Foreigner Suite" by Cat Stevens. I doubt it is intentional, and it is otherwise completely overshadowed by what is quite an uncharacteristically upbeat, almost saccharine ode from Albarn. While this song is technically 2D from Gorillaz, it is also every bit just Damon being himself.

11) Broken -- 5/5

My favorite of the album. The song evokes Clint Eastwood with its pseudo-riff on "The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly" theme by Hugo Montenegro. The song is beyond phenomenal, and I think this is no coincidence, another 2D solo joint that can just as easily be seen as Damon Albarn as himself. The beat is seriously sick and haunting at the same time. The production sounds as if lifted off a top-flight hip-hop producer's private instrumental songbook, but it is so much more due to Damon's vocals dominating the song. I don't care what he is singing about in this song, I just want to listen and feel his lament. It's why this album, and its creator, are one-of-a-kind.

12) Sweepstakes -- 4/5

Hated this song at first, due to the repetition of the beat and the rhyme. However, keep listening: the lyrics actually change, not in their content, but in their delivery, just as the song itself transforms into something greater than the sum of its parts. Several minutes of repetition in, you are greeted again by the Hypnotic Brass Ensemble amplified this time with a percussion section that evokes an American college football halftime band performance. Mos Def is most definitely a winner on this track. Hip-hop heads will prefer this track to the rest of the album's offerings, which speaks to the fact that there is almost something for everyone here.

13) Plastic Beach -- 3/5

I can't hear Mick Jones' contribution to this song, but ex-Clash band-mate (and frequent Albarn-collaborator) Paul Simonon's strings sound pretty good on the title track. The track is funky, a little bit eerie, and definitely keeps the mood of the album and its maybe-fictional-maybe-real setting at the center of your mind as your trek through Plastic Beach nears its end.

14) To Binge -- 5/5

For those not expecting Blur to ever make a guest appearance on this album -- well, don't worry, they didn't. But this is as close as you'll ever get, since even the most casual Gorillaz fan will notice that 2D doesn't sound anything like himself on this record. In fact, he sounds just like Albarn from Blur during the height of the 90s Britpop era. This time, however, he is trading verses with guest singer Yukumi Nagano who appears in her second contribution to the album. The song is like a fading sunset, with clouds developing as the song itself fades out. If this is the final album from the Gorillaz, I think this song serves as its official good-bye. And even though two more tracks come after this one, they feel more like encores than anything.

15) On The Cloud of Unknowing -- 4/5

But what encores they are! Powerful, powerful stuff from Bobby Womack here, coupled with chilling and atmospheric instrumentation from Sinfonia ViVA, make this a contemplative song, even if the first few listens give little clue as to what you and singer are contemplating. It can be simply described as a pretty song.

16) Pirate Jet -- 4/5

I have an image of an animated pogo-stick or slinky, or something bouncy like that just hopping all over this song like a little kid. "It's all good news now, because we left the taps running for a hundred years." Call it tongue-wagging sarcastic optimism at the prospect that even as foolish and wasteful we humans are, Nature will adapt to whatever is thrown at it, and persevere. That's my take, at least. And with that, the final opus in the Gorillaz trilogy (this is widely rumored to be the final album for the group) comes to a close.

If you have made it to the end of this review, thank you. I had fun sharing my rambling thoughts on what I feel is a great album. If you have not already purchased this album, give it a try, you will be happy you did."
The waiting of a let down
T. HALLIE | Minnesota | 03/27/2010
(1 out of 5 stars)

"I'm a huge Gorillaz fan, and a Damon Albarn fan, but this album is a let down, its nothing but a snthy under produced, record. Its not even close to their self titled, Demon Days, or D-Sides. I thought this record was going to be amazing after hearing Damon on BBC Radio 1, play Electric Shock, Stylo, and Broken, back in Jan. 09'. These demos blew my mind, and have better production than plastic beach. So I waited a whole year thinking plastic beach was going to be amazing, and as soon as I heard the news Damon was producing it, I thought, crap its going to be another Monkey Journey To The West album, and it preaty much is. I don't think Damon made the right choice of producing it, he's a great musician, but should not have become a producer, this album lacks so much, he should of got back Dan the Automator, Danger Mouse, or a new producer.

I miss that experimental, hip hop, soulful sound that Gorillaz is known for, and hope that sound will come back to us in the future."