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Gorillaz: Plastic Beach in a Roundup of Record Reviews

What this critic says:

Plastic Beach doesn't have the touches of super-producers like Danger Mouse and Dan the Automator, yet it is the band's most polished effort. Lead single "Stylo" is the perfect sample of what Plastic Beach feels like -- grimey and subdued, yet plenty funky.

"Stylo" has that widespread appeal that Gorillaz have made their name from, thanks to guest spots from Mos Def and Bobby Womack, and a slick enough beat that gets lodged in your head for days on end.

Plastic Beach is a stark tale of two halves -- the first being far superior, bolstered by the four-song arc of "Rhinestone Eyes," "Stylo," "Superfast Jellyfish" and "Empire Ants." With the help of Yukimi Nagano from Swedish electronic indie pop act Little Dragon, "Empire Ants" is the album's finest track, a hauntingly beautiful barometer of Plastic Beach's brilliant, stark subtlety and its pounding, infectious rhythms.

And now onto the others:

BBC Music: "The Plastic Beach back story - colourful fluff about cyborg bassists, kidnapped singers and islands made of trash - might make you think the whole cartoon band conceit is wearing a bit thin. Listen, though, and it makes more sense than ever. Only behind such a distracting smokescreen could Damon Albarn get away with conducting a project as sprawling, daring, innovative, surprising, muddled and magnificent as Plastic Beach: not just one of the best records of 2010, but a release to stand alongside the greatest Albarn's ever been involved with and a new benchmark for collaborative music as a whole." 

The Guardian: "Furthermore, despite Albarn's protestations that Plastic Beach is Gorillaz's most pop album to date, an effortless, irrefutable hit along the lines of Feel Good Inc or Dare is noticeable by its absence. There's something undeniably brave about the fact that Stylo doesn't even have a chorus, relying instead for its power on the thunderous arrival of Womack around two minutes in, singing an improvised vocal with such intensity it apparently caused the 66-year-old to pass out in the studio, but it's perhaps a little more opaque than an album's big single should be.

That said, what is here does enough to underline the fact that Albarn is the only artist from the whole Britpop imbroglio to whom you could attach the word genius without causing widespread mocking laughter. He's certainly the only one with this kind of kaleidoscopic musical ambition."

Entertainment Weekly: "Like its name, Plastic Beach has a sharp tang of cognitive dissonance -- its songs sound like dispatches from a crew of hip-kid astronauts, unmoored in some space-dust ether. Sometimes, especially in the album's latter half, that sonic drift can come off as dull, and even dispiriting. Often, though, they do it with style: Womack brings an organic jolt to the mentholated Casio cool of ''Stylo,'' while the sparse, glitchy base of ''White Flag'' is embroidered with brilliant threads of bhangra. In the end, Beach offers a vision of the future as digitized kitsch: groovy, yes, but lonely too."

Rolling Stone: "Plastic Beach, Gorillaz's third excellent album in a row, is all Albarn -- he writes the tunes, produces, sings, plays most of the music and gets people on the phone for left-field cameos: Snoop Dogg, De La Soul, Lou Reed, the Clash's Mick Jones and more. "Stylo" is a typical highlight, with Albarn passing the mike to indie rapper Mos Def and old-school soul belter Bobby Womack.

Plastic Beach is not as pop as the first two Gorillaz albums -- there aren't any go-for-the-throat dance tunes in the style of "Dare," "Feel Good Inc." or "19-2000." But it peaks high. Snoop Dogg announces, "Welcome to the world of the plastic beach!" in the title theme. Snoop has never sounded more laaaid back, rhyming "in focus" with "the world is so hopeless." Albarn sings orchestral ballads like "Rhinestone Eyes" and "Broken," while "White Flag" features low-key Brit rappers Kano and Bashy nattering about ecology over strings from the Syrian National Orchestra for Arabic Music."

Plastic Beach is out now via Virgin.

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Michael Lopez