The following review is of the standard edition of Plastic Beach, there is also an ‘Experience Edition’ available with additional bonus tracks and features.
I enjoyed Demon Days and decided to pick up a copy of Plastic Beach after I saw the music video for “Stylo” and its performance on The Colbert Report. Collaborations with numerous artists keeps each track fresh and creates a diverse album. The songs that do not feature artists besides the Gorillaz, however, are solid in their own right.
“Orchestral Intro” is just over a minute and is really intended to be just that—an intro. But the classical piece is quite enjoyable while it lasts. It flows right into “Welcome to the World of the Plastic Beach,” a slow beat track featuring Snoop Dogg on vocals. While it is a full-length track at over three and a half minutes, it feels more like an extended introduction to the album.
“White Flag” changes things up with an Arabic instrumental intro, and then goes into a Jamaican rap. The two vocalists, Bashy and Kano, trade lyrics back-and-forth until the music comes back to conclude the track. “Rhinestone Eyes” is the first of four tracks performed solely by the Gorillaz. The track has a beat that sounds good with its English accented vocals and periodic background singers.
“Stylo” is one of the best tracks on the album. Its beat is solid throughout, using the Gorillaz’s singer in addition to sections from Bobby Womack and Mos Def; all three sound good together. Womack’s gruff voice especially stands out. “Stylo” was the album’s first single and track to have a music video; it is fitting that the video features cars because “Stylo” is a great driving tune.
“Superfast Jellyfish” has a catchy refrain. De La Soul and Gruff Rhys were part of the collaboration on this one. “Empire Ants” is divided into a slower first half with piano and Gorillaz vocals, but takes off with an electronic spin to finish with Yukimi Nagano on vocals for the remainder of the track.
“Glitter Freeze” has a heavier beat that is difficult not to bob your head to. It consists mostly of electronic music with a dance club vibe. Mark E. Smith provides a few lines of vocals, but not much in the way of actual singing. “Some Kind of Nature” is very different than the previous track, it’s got a much warmer feeling with vocals from Lou Reed.
“On Melancholy Hill” is my favorite track on the album. The bass line and the softer vocals mesh wonderfully and the higher keyboard part is a very catchy riff. “If you can’t get what you want then come with me / Up on Melancholy Hill sits the manatee / Just looking out for the day when you’re close to me / When you’re close to me.”
“Broken” doesn’t have the happy vibe of “On Melancholy Hill.” It’s not a bad track, there just isn’t any part that jumps out. Perhaps because it has a difficult act to follow. Mos Def returns for “Sweepstakes.” As the longest song on the album, track takes a while to get going. About a minute into the track it starts to build and a minute later a few other instruments jump in. By the end you’ll be dancing to the Hypnotic Brass Ensemble. The title track has a bit of a Pink Floyd feel to it, at least at the beginning. Like most of the tracks it isn’t really like any of the others, there’s even some video game sounding beeps and boops to close the track.
“To Binge” returns Little Dragon and Yukimi Nagano, who once again divides vocals with the Gorillaz. “To Binge” has a dreamlike quality to it. “You’re by my side, but are you still with me? … But I just have to tell that I love you so much these days / Have to tell you that I love you so much these days, it’s true.” “To Binge” flows right into “Cloud of Unknowing” which continues that dream vibe with Bobby Womack once again on vocals. Womack is quieter in this track than “Stylo,” a microcosm of the diversity that the whole album presents. String instruments provide the music for “Cloud of Unknowing.” “Private Jet” takes the album out in style, as the Gorillaz close the album themselves. It’s a shorter track, but with a good beat and catchy lyrics.
Plastic Beach is a good album. The Gorillaz’s collaboration with multiple artists keeps the album diverse and non-repetitious, but they can write some good music on their own. There aren’t any songs that I would skip over, but only “On Melancholy Hill” and “Stylo” feel like the only real standouts.