Album review: Gorillaz’s Plastic Beach innovative, surreal

Pete Candeland – Gorillaz “Stylo” from Passion Paris on Vimeo.

by Alexandra Legend Siegel, News Correspondent

The Gorillaz kicked off their new album, Plastic Beach, with a trailer featuring a risky car chase, a gun-wielding Bruce Willis, and their new single “Stylo.” Plastic Beach, the Gorillaz’s third album, was released March 9 and is already number one on iTunes’ Top Albums chart.

The first song on the album is a soothing and mystifying one-minute instrumental introduction played by an orchestra. It seamlessly blends into the next track “Welcome to the World of the Plastic Beach,” featuring Snoop Dogg. Trumpets and saxophones sing through the track between Snoop Dog’s rhymes. “It’s like wonderland,” the rapper says, presenting this magical, musical world that the Gorillaz have created.

Throughout the album there is a plethora of magic, fairytale and surreal imagery. In the track “Rhinestone eyes,” the low, chilling voice of “2D” or Damon Albarn sings, “your love’s like rhinestones, falling from the sky.” In “Superfast Breakfast,” which features Gruff Rhys and De La Soul, they talk about serving jellyfish and other sea creatures at a 24-hour fast food joint on the plastic beach.

Tracks such as “White Flag” and “Empire Ants” have tropical sounds in the background such as bongo drums, wind instruments, chimes and light strings. They whisk you away to the puzzling island upon which the Gorillaz thrive. “Empire Ants” features electronic band Little Dragon, who brings the song from a relaxing island getaway to an entrancing techno world.

The energetic techno trance picks up in “Glitter Freeze.” The song asks, “Where’s north from here?” as if to say the band, as well as the listener, is lost on this vast, mysterious island. The instrumentals on the album are similar to those of Animal Collective, with the same enchanting and wild feel. This is a technique that seems to be becoming popular in the alternative rock world.

The Gorillaz combines modern musical techniques with old ones. For example, Lou Reed appears on the track “Some Kind of Nature,” proclaiming in the same smooth storytelling voice he used in “A Walk on the Wild Side” over forty years ago, “I like plastics and digital foils to wrap up the sound and protect the girls from spiritual poisons.” Only this time, the Gorillaz’s unique sound and lyrics are behind him.

The album’s climax is its title track. Combining the enchanting instrumental with the repetitive riddle-like lyrics and complementary melodies, the album winds down with “To Binge,” which seems to represent the end of the romance with not only a girl, but the island itself: “I’m caught again in the mystery, you’re by my side but are you still with me?”

The album works wonderfully as a whole, with similar themes and easy transitions between songs. However, not every song works on its own. Still, it is an innovative work as well as a respectful nod to other artists and the Gorillaz’s successful career. The cartoon band, as they say in “Pirate Jet,” are “still connected to the moment it began.”