Photos Courtesy of www.Gorillaz.com
Despite what The Gorillaz latest album title suggests—“Plastic Beach,”
is anything but artificial.
The Gorillaz have always been an interesting case in music. They have maintained steady airplay on college radio while selling shirts and action figures to at Hot Topic. The secret behind the band’s success may lie in finding a middle ground between musicians known to rewrite the rules of genres.
While they have had no problem fitting into the mainstream, the players behind the animated curtain make up a music nerd’s collective dream.
“Tank Girl” creator Jamie Hewlett and Blur frontman Damon Albarn serve as the masterminds behind The Gorillaz. However, over the course of their three albums, the bands lineup has been a revolving door of members including the likes of Danger Mouse, Del tha Funkee Homosapien, members of The Talking Heads and Cibo Matto.
For their latest album “Plastic Beach,” the Gorillaz call upon yet another group of musicians that showcases the hip, the heavy-hitters and the up-and-coming.
The album starts off with rapper Snoop Dogg giving an ode to legendary musician Gil-Scot Heron – “The revolution will not be televised.” From there, listeners are led through a colorful attempt at bringing Jamie Hewlett’s animated band to life.
The following track, “White Flag,” introduces America to British grime artists Bashy and Kano rapping over a beat provided by The Lebanese National Orchestra for Oriental Arabic Music. While not quite a formal introduction to these two British superstars, it may very well be a sign of stateside stardom.
The record features vocals from a solid line up of contributors, but the album’s breakthrough star is Little Dragon’s singer Yukimi Nagano. While she may lack a strong vocal performance, the fragility of her voice secures her spot as a standout among the men.
Fresno residents may recall two sold out shows at Audie’s Olympics from these tracks. The buzz behind the band has only intensified as they prepare to headline the 2010 Coachella Music and Arts Festival. The hype behind this up-and-coming band is justifiable in the songs “Empire Ants” and “To Binge.”
The Gorillaz also add some “punk credibility” by inviting former Clash members Mick Jones and Paul Simonon. Fans of The Clash shouldn’t expect a cut from “London Calling” or “Combat Rock.” They can, however, recall their later project; “The Good, the Bad, & the Queen” in this collaboration.
“Plastic Beach” still follows a darker theme of pop music, but is still accessible to their varying demographic. With a wide array of collaborators, they don’t break new ground as one could expect. The album is very cohesive in regards to how much it jumps around in styles. Damon has elegantly created a balance between the likes of Lou Reed and a band like Little Dragon.
While nothing new is brought to the table, there is a feeling they have a “don’t fix it if it isn’t broken” attitude. Damon and Hewlett know what they are trying to achieve and only compromise with their respected featured artists.