welcome back to the current discog review folks! we’re picking up where we left off with the major release of the Gorillaz’s Phase 3 – Plastic Beach:

alrighty Plastic Beach kicks it off with an Orchestra Intro with Symphonia Vivo, which is nice. i love the transition into Welcome To the World of the Plastic Beach with Snoop and the Hypnotic Brass Ensemble, which is itself a sort of part 2 of the intro to the record as a whole. this track is neat – i like the contrast of the processed voices against Snoop’s lines, and how it comes to a real subtle kind of peak at the end before finishing out. i actually appreciate the first minute of White Flag finishing out the intro of the record. Bashy and Kano, the vocalists here, remind me a lot of the Jamie T Remix of Kids With Guns (which i thought was a good fit), and the National Orchestra for Arabic Music provides an excellent backdrop and outro for the scene setting they do for the Plastic Beach itself. Rhinestone Eyes is in a close fight for favorite track on the record. interestingly, this track samples an unreleased demo, which i think is a really interesting loop back into the plastic and trash and recycling themes of the record. Stylo’s got Mos Def on the verses, Bobby Womack on the chorus, and a rad groove underneath it. this feels like night driving music, evoking strong 80s synths like Kavinsky or Perturbator do, its neat! ill say rn that i dont dig the overpopulation themes on the record, but a lot of the rest of the discussion is extremely good. Superfast Jellyfish has a fun little sound bite to kick it off, and they bring back De La Soul for this one, with Gruff Rhys on the chorus. this one’s discussed as a metaphor for the music industry, which feels appropriate given the band’s origins, but i think is just as strong as a straight up discussion of waste and consumerism, so eh. good track tho. great transition into Empire Ants, which is a spacey reflection on, honestly, working in late capitalism. i like the guest here, Little Dragon, and the synth work and looping little melodies are extremely fun during the guest verse. Glitter Freeze is a fun track, where the synths are sharp and… i dont know how to describe it, zig-zag? its really cool to have them jumping around while the morse code just plods out “Plastic Beach”. the guest, Mark E Smith, has some interesting lines here but it’s such a small portion of the song. Some Kind of Nature brings on the Velvet Underground’s Lou Reed, who brings and interesting texture to the track. his delivery is a little adjusted (esp the “bar-bit-u-its” bit) and stilted in places, but its like finding genuine wood in a forest of plastic trees. its interesting. i dig this one quite a bit. the chorus shines really brightly on this track. On Melancholy Hill is the other track in contention for number one spot on this record. what a perfect track. this might be my fave Gorillaz track. Broken has the deep misfortune of following up On Melancholy Hill. i feel just okay about this track. Sweepstakes brings both the Hypnotic Brass Ensemble and Mos Def back, and this song’s p good. i like what theyre doing thematically, and Mos Def’s putting some good lines down over some real good stuff, but it really flowers into full form halfway through. Plastic Beach is the beating heart of the record, bringing in half the Clash. i really like this song, which really ties the climate metaphor to the musical one – ecologically we’re destroying the planet with trash but we’re doing similar damage to the music industry, and rampant consumerism is at fault for both. i think one of those is uh, a little more pressing, but i think esp here its well done and i really dig this track. To Binge brings Little Dragon back for a nice cooldown track from Plastic Beach. this feels like waiting music. Bobby Womack is back on Cloud of Unknowing, which is the real beginning of the end for the record. its p good. Pirate Jet kind of can’t be more than it is, as the outro following Cloud of Unknowing, but i like it a lot and would like to see what this song would be a little more developed, yknow?

faves – Rhinestone Eyes, Superfast Jellyfish, Empire Ants, On Melancholy Hill, Plastic Beach
dislikes –

honestly, there are a few tracks on here that on future listens might wiggle their way onto my faves list – Stylo and Glitter Freeze especially come to mind – but even so this record has some HITS. god. so many of the individual tracks hit real hard.

and it’s still a good whole picture! i keep coming back to a quote i read about the formation of the band, about how they decided to make music in response to what they felt was vapid shit on MTV. and like, theyve never shied away from being topical and commenting on the state of the world – Demon Days was literally that already, but this feels a very mature and focused version of that, attacking consumerism and excess and its effects on music and climate.

i am being deliberate with the Gorillaz about calling out collaborators – i know the steady stream of guest artists is standard even at this point in their discography and is largely a key feature of the band nowadays, but i feel like the myriad voices and musical influences helps to paint a full musical picture here, and its curated well, i feel. nothing here feels out of place or distracting, and even the more distinctive guest voices feel integrated into the sound.

yeah overall i really liked this, and even the parts of the record that were a little weaker or didnt make it to the top of my list were still really good or helped build the experience. good shit.

The Plastic Beach – 9/10

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