Damon Albarn and Jamie Hewlett’s cartoon band has evolved into more of a musicians collective as far as I can tell. A bit like a pop version of Josh Homme’s ‘Desert Sessions’. ‘Plastic Beach’ sounds like an overwhelming mix of musical styles on the first listen through – classical, hip-hop, Lebanese Arabian Orchestras, 70’s and 80’s sections, they all reach you before the album finishes. Second and third listens though and the album really opens up to you and by the fourth and fifth you’re totally inside.
Some of those musicians who wander in include Snoop Dogg, Gruff Rhys (Super Furry Animals), Bobby Womack, Mos Def, De La Soul, Lou Reed, Mick Jones, Mark E. Smith (The Fall). Quite a lot actually! I also want to hear more from ‘The Lebanese National Orchestra for Oriental Arabic Music’ who help out on a couple of tracks.
It really is a great album, tempered only slightly by Damon’s occasional tendency to drift into whiny talking-singing, such as the song ‘Rhinestone Eyes’, which still manages to have a good enough hook to be a good song.
As for the artwork, I quite like the front cover island idea where all these cultures and musicians would be meeting and I like the depth of field of the ocean, but the back cover with the characters on seems a little irrelevant now – I think the concept has outgrown the characters.
4 on 5