2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
NO RESTRAINT!!!, NO REPENT!!!!!,
This review is from: Plastic Beach (Audio CD)
Well, where on earth do you start in disecting this album?. Do you start with what each of the numourous collaborations bring to the table?, just who or what is playing each part?, have Gorillaz expanded upon the sound they reached on 'Demon Days'?, or do you just sit back and listen to a master pop writer at the pinnacle of his/their game?. I tend to go with that last option.
Damon Albarn has long been seen as the modern day Ray Davies (of Kinks fame, all you young 'uns), singing of life in Britain and giving even the little things in life a romantic feel. The bitter Oasis/Blur feud left a sour taste in the mouth and gave rise to a generation of lamentable Brit-pop bands, in fact to my ears the mid-to-late 90's were the most depressing time for British music with only a handful of groups (such as Pulp, Suede and indeed Blur) coming out the other end with some credit and longevity. In the early 2000's Damon Albarn seemed to be going to every length to distance himself from this murky world of pub-rocker's and faux-feminist-cross-dressers and in 2002 recorded the Afican-influenced 'Mali Music' album which he recorded with Afel Bocoum & Toumani Diabaté (amongs others), then in 2003 came Blur's wonderful parting shot 'Think Tank' (which featured parts recorded in Morocco) and of course in 2007 came the Tony Allen, Paul Simonon and Simon Tong collabarated release 'The Good, The Bad And The Queen'. In between all this he has managed to find the time to release 2 albums primarily in collabaration with (Tank Girl creator) Jamie Hewlett.
Now here we are a full five years since the multi platinum selling 'Demon Days' (which featured an unforgettable cameo from Hollywood legend Dennis Hopper) comes Albarn & Hewlett's latest pop masterclass 'Plastic Beach'. A concept album set upon a mythical island built from detritus dumped into the Pacific Trash Vortex, the album contains various mentions of ecological concerns and even has some reaccuring characters. But to get bogged down in the specifics would be to miss the point, this is pop music first-and-foremost and it is played as if so. Guests such as Snoop Dog, Mark E. Smith, Lou Reed, Kano, Bashy, Mos Def, Bobby Womack and Gruff Rhys (amongs still more) give the album a real celebratory feel and each guest brings their own unique quality to the album. Early highlights include the Kano/Bashy duel 'White Flag' which features some tremendous percussion and Bollywood-esque strings, this is followed by the truly magnificent 'Rhinestone Eyes' which is surely to be released as a future single and could draw some compariosons to 2005's 'Dare' with it's driving beat and dark keyboard flourishes. Track 5 'Stylo' is the album's lead-off single and it's easy to see why, Albarn, Mos Def and Bobby Womack trade off over the bassline from Mis-Teeq's 'Scandalous' with Womack's part of particular note.
The second half of the album is just as strong with Lou Reed's wonderfully stated presence presiding over 'Some Kind Of Nature' being a definate high-point. It could be claimed that the album is a little too weighted towards the collabarations, and on the strengh of the handful of song's which are performed exclusively by Gorillaz, it is a fair arguament. Track 10 'On Melancholy Hill', 'Broken' and 'Pirate Jet' are some of the strongest song's on the entire set. Indeed, 'On Melancholy Hill' is probably my favourite moment, with it's title belaying it's incessant joyfullness and beautiful harmonies, all the while Albarn gives the sort of lost-little-boy vocal performance he's mastered over his career. I can't finish without mentioning the Mos Def led 'Sweepstakes' which get's itself into a modern R & B groove but ends with a New Orlean's style funeral march complete with all manner of Brass & percussion.
Overall the album is a superb pop creation which is sure to be enjoyed throughout the summer months, and only it's (slightly) too long length and the fact that not all of the collabaration's are quite as memorable as you'd hope (I'm looking your way Mark E. Smith, oh how I wanted that collabaration to work) stop it from being the 5 star masterpeice it so nearly is. If Amazon gave half-marks you can add another .5 to my 4 stars, as it is it'll have to settle for just the 4 stars.
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Initial post: 6 Nov 2010 22:14:46 GMT
Eoghan CC says:
An interesting review thanks, but It's odd you find the Mark.E.Smith collaboration to be poor as I find it's one of the albums finepoints :)
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