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Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Gorillaz - Plastic Beach: B

Considering how much I despised Demon Days, Plastic Beach far exceeded my expectations. Although it has many flaws over the span of its sixteen tracks, there is much to be enjoyed here, and the album's length can allow you to pick and choose what you like and still have a pretty decent-sized product to enjoy.

The best of Plastic Beach is varied and spans multiple styles. "Stylo", the album's first single, for example, is the album's best track, riding a deliriously catchy bass riff to just about its farthest boundary without being completely obnoxious. "Superfast Jellyfish" displays some hilariously conversational rhymes from De La Soul that give you the impression the group is feeling out the track's cartoonishly fun potential just as you do. And "White Flag" is just a playful jaunt, displaying some great call-and-response rapping between Kano and Bashy.

The worst of Plastic Beach, quite simply, is when David Albarn's vocals are front and center. With the exception of "Stylo" and "Melancholy Hill", Albarn's vocal contributions on Plastic Beach are universally inert. His distorted malaise is far out of place and can often derail a pretty good song with its presence. "Rhinestone Eyes" is a good example of this, but the most literal is "Empire Ants", which diverges from an extremely forgettable Albarn lament into a fantastically glitzy romp helmed by Little Dragon so delightful, you wonder why that beginning was included at all by the track's end.

And, because the good and bad are dispersed so evenly throughout Plastic Beach, the album, ultimately, defines hit-and-miss. Albarn isn't the only one to blame for bad tracks, though. Lou Reed's cracked monotone on "Some Kind of Nature" is amusing for about a minute, and gives the song absolutely no replay value, and, though I hate to say it, with the exception of "Stylo", anytime Mos Def appears is a near guaranteed disaster ("Sweepstakes" is a leading contender for worst song of the year). The album would definitely benefit from the trimming of fat, but, because some songs have such drastically redeeming and abhorrent qualities within themselves, I'm not so sure the taking out of songs would do all that much good. Plastic Beach shows Albarn still has some kinks to fix with his side project, but the ratio of good to bad on his albums is improving.


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