I have been a huge supporter of Gorillaz since the drew their way onto the music scene all those years ago. It’s true that part of my love for the band was the art of Jamie Hewlitt, who I assume doesn’t really have any input anymore. I also love Del the Funky Homosapien (who is also missing). But I’m almost slavishly devoted to Damon Albarn, so I was pretty psyched when I heard they had a new album coming out and that it was getting rave reviews.
I was severely disappointed when I heard the record.
“Welcome to the World of the Plastic Beach” features Snoop Dog who is phoning it in from a vacationland far far away. He was more exciting on his cameo for The Lonely Island. Even musically, it’s not very interesting. “White Flag” is more promising, with the cool flute and string intro, but the rap by Bashy (which I wanted to like because of his accent) is just bland. And Gorillaz must agree as the rap is less than a third of the song.
“Stylo” has a cool bass line but the track overall is surprisingly discoey. The Mos Def bit is interesting but I guess I’m not a fan of Bobby Womack, as I don’t care for his part of the song at all. “Sweepstakes” has some interesting parts but the intermittent yelling of “Sweepstakes” kind of ruins it for me. “Plastic Beach” features Mick Jones and Paul Simonon but you’d never know it. And I actually don’t enjoy the manipulated voice much here, it sounds uncomfortably like early 80s technology. “Cloud of Unknowing” is barely there at all (sorry Bobby Womack, I’m, not convinced)
It’s probably unsurprising that my favorite song with guests is “Superfast Jellyfish.” I love De La Soul (although their “dopey” sounding rap is a bit much). But I like that they play up the cartoon feel of the song (and the band). I also didn’t even realize that the main singer was Gruff Rhys until a few listens in. And since I love him, it all plays out nicely. I also like “Glitter Freeze” because fun with keyboards can be interesting. I didn’t realize it was Mark E. Smith until recently. I’m not really sure if that makes any difference since he just says a few words, but things are always more interesting when he’s around. Of course, this song could have been 2 minutes instead of 4. “Some Kind of Nature” features Lou Reed. Reed has been hit or miss lately and this is more miss than hit. “Empire Ants” features Little Dragon (unknown to me). It is very slow to get to the interesting part, but when it does, the song is pretty cool. The other song with Little Dragon, “To Binge” is wonderful. It reminds me of a track from A Clockwork Orange and it also features some great lyrics.
The few songs that I like on the album are ones that are credited to just Gorillaz. “Rhinestone Eyes” is a bit lazy for my tastes, although the second part of the song really showcases the first decent melody on the disc, and the introduction of Damon’s voice is like a salve. “On Melancholy Hill” has the best wispy keyboard intro this side of early 80s Madonna–a wonderful counterpoint to the title and lyrics. “Broken” is actually a little too mellow for me, but again, the melody is a nice one. “Pirate Jet” is a simple, dopey song that ends the album in a kind of limbo state.
I’m confused by all the rave reviews, especially the one that says the album is chock full of singles. I mean, “Dare” now that’s a single. I guess I just miss Del (and Russel) way too much. And frankly, even the artwork is pretty lame on this one.
[READ: January 10, 2012] “Center of the Universe”
Simon Rich never fails to make me laugh. Sometimes his ideas are completely original. Other times he takes a fairly common observation and runs with it into a land of lunacy. And sometime he takes an idea that seems like it’s been done before but he puts a fun twist on it and makes it entirely his own. Such is the case with this.
The very simple premise is that while God is busy creating the earth, his girlfriend is not only complaining that he never spends time with her, but she also feels slighted that he doesn’t seem to care how hard her job is.
A wonderful part of this scenario is that God has not yet finished making the earth–He’s only on the sixth day–but His girlfriend, Kate, is hanging out in Chelsea reading a magazine impatiently waiting for Him to show up.
I loved that she gets mad at Him when she’s complaining about her job. He stops listening briefly because he just thought of an animal to add to the earth: “Let there be elephants”. “Oh, my God…you’re not even listening to me.”
But I think the funniest part is why her job is so exhausting to her (because her co-workers are catty, mostly).
The ending is a good payoff, but as with most Simon Rich pieces, it’s the basic story that is the real gem.