Monthly Archives: March 2010

Review: Gorillaz “Plastic Beach”

Devotees to SiA will note that I am a huge Damon Albarn fan. I inch closer and closer to getting that Blur tattoo I’ve long debated. That said, I always take his more popular side-project, Gorillaz, somewhat lightly. Gorillaz is clearly his more electronic side, which I’ve always felt was not his strongest suit. However, every Goriallz LP always manage to leave me with a few songs that consistently come up in rotation. After the 2005 release of Demon Days, rumor had it that Gorillaz was only going to exist one more time, in a film no less. But here I am, holding another full-blown Gorillaz LP in 2010. While it may not be Albarn’s/Gorillaz’ most musical cohesive album to date, it certainly is the most adventurous and intricate since Blur’s 13 back in 1999.

To say that Plastic Beach may shock you at first is a serious understatement. The first time I put the album on, I sat on my floor, stunned for the first 15 minutes. A: I forgot Snoop Dogg was on the opening track B: It is so very different from previous Gorillaz efforts C: I was drinking my iced coffee too fast and may have suffered brain freeze. But really, Albarn really threw the world a curve with this album. From the opening funkadelic cut (“Welcome To The World Of The Plastic Beach”) to the oriental-stringed hip-hop (“White Flag”) and all the way in to the electronic-only groove that is “Glitter Freeze.” It took me a good 4 listens to really let these numbers sink in, because the shift can be a little hard to follow at first. Plastic Beach also marks the first Gorillaz album where previous Albarn projects start to combine. The previously mentioned “White Flag” clearly came after the Chinese opera he wrote the music for last year, and I mistook “On Melancholy Hill” for a Good, The Bad and The Queen b-side.

While I do applaud Gorillaz for not stepping back into the same sound that the previous albums carried, the variety carried on the 57 minutes of Plastic Beach is pretty much the weak link of the album. The complete tonal and instrumental shift that takes place song after song can make it a little difficult to sit through. By the time you reach the “meh” song that is “Sweepstakes,” Plastic Beach may have started to wash away from you. My first few listens, the final 20ish minutes were all a blur (no pun intended), as my brain started to simply tune it out. It took me several listens to really focus on the end of the record, even though I love “Plastic Beach” (feat. Clash-ites Paul Simonon and Mick Jones!!!). But the album does carry some great tunes with it: “Rhinestone Eyes,” “Empire Ants,” and “Broken” are insanely good.

To put it plainly, Plastic Beach is a bold Gorillaz album that has a jarring opening, a great middle and a distant close. And unlike previous efforts, there’s really no big singles, other than “Stylo,” to be found. And the only thing binding the album together is it’s very apparent environmental stand point. But I wouldn’t say the album is a failure, I quite enjoy/respect Plastic Beach more than any other Gorillaz release. It just took a lot of dedication and close listens to really sink in. Plus, it’s nice to hear Lou Reed’s voice again.

-Chase

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Reviews: Hot Chip, Massive Attack and Charlotte Gainsbourg

This might be the point where I could point out that it’s been almost a month since I wrote an article on here. I thought about coming up with some excuse about my future move out of L.A, but in reality I’m just lazy. In real reality, I’ve been playing too much video games.

ANYWAY, I’m here now. February was a pretty good month for music. Actually 2010 has gotten off to a really strong start. If we keep up this pace, it’ll be as memorable a music year as 2007 (Radiohead, Panda Bear, LCD Soundsystem, Burial, etc). In an attempt to atone for my absence, here’s some blurbs about the note-worthy releases in the past month. (Videos below)

HOT CHIP “ONE LIFE STAND”
Hot Chip is one of those bands that has yet to make a bad album. One Life Stand is no exception, well…minus the album cover. The record stands out as one of they’re brightest yet. From the bro-mance anthem of “Brothers” to the infectious “We Have Love,” the album just manages to keep you on your toes. The album’s closer, “Take It In,” is quite possibly the best track they’ve ever cut.
MASSIVE ATTACK “HELIGOLAND”
Seven freaking years. That’s how long I’ve waited for a follow-up to the underwhelming 100th Window. Heligoland is actually a decent return too. It may not be as strong as fellow trip-hoppers Portishead’s comeback 2 years ago, but the album is pretty trim. It’s closer to 1994’s Protection in it’s larger focus on instrumentation and subtle songwriting. But it’s a hearty welcome back with tracks like “Paradise Circus” and “Saturday Come Slow.”

CHARLOTTE GAINSBOURG “IRM”

Charlotte’s first LP, 5:55, has simply sat on my shelf since the week it came out. Good news! IRM will not suffer the same fate. This time around she enlisted Beck to help her write the music. And the product is the best Charlotte Gainsbourg yet, and the best Beck album since Sea Change.

As previously mentioned, I am moving to Seattle in the next month, so the site may once again suffer. I’ll try my best to keep on top of things, but I like to disappoint. Until then: I’m working on the Joanna Newsom review (3 discs is a lot to take in), I’m taking in the new Gorillaz album right now, and James Mercer/Danger Mouse’s Broken Bells LP comes out next week. I’ll try to get reviews up for each within the next 2 weeks.

-Chase