Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Gorillaz- Plastic Beach

    What do you get when you cross the frontman of Blur with a circus of respected recording artists from The Fall’s Mark E. Smith to Mos Def? The first Gorillaz studio album in five years, or How Damon Albarn Learned To Stop Worrying And Keep Make Dull Music. Plastic Beach’s minute-long “Orchestral Intro”, in conjunction with the first ‘true’ track, “Welcome to the World of the Plastic Beach (ft. Snoop Dogg)” acts as a less-than-positive bellwether. By titles alone, it’s not hard to see that this is intended to be an immersive listening experience, but your ears will confirm that the pop dictionary lacks separate entries for ‘ambient’ and ‘milktoast’.

    The vast majority of Plastic Beach consists of canned, highly synthetic boops and beeps, layered enough to seem promising, and then poured like boiling oil over a host of very unwilling guest appearances. Snoop’s performance is incongruous to say the least, Mark E. Smith adds nothing more than the apparent soundbite “where’s north from ‘ere”, Bobby Womack has no earthly business singing the way he does, on this or any record, and Lou Reed’s half-spoken appearance on “Some Kind of Nature” sounds about as hopeful as your chances of staying awake through sixteen tracks of dull, overly British electropop.

    For the most part, the successful tracks still come straight from Albarn and his ‘bored-of-being-tired, tired-of-being-bored’ vocals. “Rhinestone Eyes” sets the high water mark on the Plastic Beach. But the aforementioned track, and others really share more in common with Albarn’s other post-Blur project, The Good, The Bad, and The Queen, from whence Albarn contracted erstwhile collaborator and Clash bassist Paul Simonon to help with Plastic Beach, and whose presence is entirely unnoticeable.

    Granted, Albarn retains some grace for inventiveness, pitting artists against others to create new and incongruous results. In a way, he’s genre-sampling. It’s too bad that most of these My First Chemistry Lab mash-ups are about as impressive as a baking soda and vinegar volcano. De La Soul’s otherwise acceptable performance on “Superfast Jellyfish” is reduced to cloying nonsense by Gruff Rhys’ autotuned accompaniments, and Mos Def’s slick delivery over the Hypnotic Brass Ensemble sounds like living in low-cost housing between an illegal techno club and a New Orleans street fair. How Albarn thought these combinations sounded good is just as jaw-dropping as these artists’ choice to participate in this floundering grey fleck of pop mediocrity.

Non-Skipping Album To Come Soon

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