Gorillaz: Plastic Beach (Parlophone/Virgin)

Gorillaz started in 1998 as an escape for Blur-frontman Damon Albarn from his disbanding group. But since 2005’s Demon Days, Damon’s alter-ego has been somewhat silent. That’s not to say Damon himself has been quiet – he did an electro spin on Chinese folklore Journey to the West with last year’s Monkey, started Brit rock supergroup the Good, the Bad and the Queen and recently reunited Blur – but that playful, acid-overdosed side of Damon has been neglected, until now.

With visual-collaborator and comic book artist Jamie Hewlett, Plastic Beach is where Damon’s taste for traditional music clashes with his favourite styles – acid house psychedelia, Caribbean dub, raygun synths, dance pop and whole lot o’ hip hop.

The ‘Orchestral Intro’ sets a dramatic mood for what follows. And you can’t argue with lining Snoop Dogg up first! Teaming him with the Hypnotic Brass Ensemble, Snoop’s meshed out rhymes sound as fresh as the ‘shrooms he gets on ‘Welcome To The World of the Plastic Beach’. Next, grime rappers Kano and Bashy spit over 8-bit loops on ‘White Flag’ and get hijacked by The National Orchestra For Arabic Music who turn the song from geeky gangsta to ethnic hop. It’s quite freaky but with good intentions as the lyrics of ‘White Flag’ pleads for world peace (minus the Bono-pathy).

Most of Plastic Beach‘s vocal ensemble features hip hop artists pairing up including Gruff Rhys & De La Soul (‘Superfast Jellyfish’) and Mos Def & soul man Bobby Womack (‘Stylo’). But Plastic breaks halfway with punk legends Lou Reed, Mark E Smith, Mick Jones and Paul Simonon and a nice duet by Damon and Little Dragon.

Going beyond Gorillaz’ novelty of being a fictitious band of loose collaborators, Damon helms the album tightly. And his serotonin-inducing voice ties everything as does his lyrical narrative of our world seen through his jaded, cartoony eyes. So forget about Ibiza or Koh Phagan, if you want to party and pretend you’re living in the future, escape to Plastic Beach.

LISTEN TO: ‘Stylo’
IF YOU LIKE THIS YOU’LL DIG: Blur, Del Tha Funkee Homosapien, Miho Hatori, Mos Def

Tracklist:
1 Orchestral Intro (featuring Sinfonia ViVA)
2 Welcome To The World Of The Plastic Beach (feat. Snoop Dogg & Hypnotic Brass Ensemble)
3 White Flag (feat. Kano, Bashy & The National Orchestra For Arabic Music)
4 Rhinestone Eyes
5 Stylo (feat. Bobby Womack & Mos Def)
6 Superfast Jellyfish (feat. Gruff Rhys & De La Soul)
7 Empire Ants (feat. Little Dragon)
8 Glitter Freeze (feat. Mark E Smith)
9 Some Kind Of Nature (feat. Lou Reed)
10 On Melancholy Hill
11 Broken
12 Sweepstakes (feat. Mos Def & Hypnotic Brass Ensemble)
13 Plastic Beach (feat. Mick Jones & Paul Simonon)
14 To Binge (feat. Little Dragon)
15 Cloud Of Unknowing (feat. Bobby Womack and Sinfonia ViVA)
16 Pirate Jet

More monkey business at gorillaz.com

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RIJICVkbyyM[/youtube]