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Plastic Beach
The cover of the third Gorillaz album "Plastic Beach". An artificial island rests on the ocean during a sunset. Apart from the base, it is mostly mushroom-shaped. It contains a few palm trees and small buildings. At the very top is a large white building with many windows. Other objects in and around the island include a ship, a buoy, a lighthouse and a crate. The view shows the opposite side of the island from the "Experience Edition" cover. In the lower left corner are the uppercase words "Gorillaz Plastic Beach" on separate rows. They are white and in a thick, wavy font.
Studio album by Gorillaz
Released 3 March 2010 (2010-03-03)
(see release history)
Recorded June 2008–November 2009
Genre Pop, trip hop, electropop, alternative rock, hip hop
Length 56:46
Label Parlophone, Virgin
Producer Damon Albarn, Gorillaz
Gorillaz chronology
Demon Days
(2005)
Plastic Beach
(2010)
Alternate covers
The cover of the Japanese release of the third Gorillaz album "Plastic Beach". An artificial island rests on the ocean during the day. Apart from the base, it is mostly mushroom-shaped. It contains a few palm trees and small buildings. At the very top is a large white building with many windows. Other objects in and around the island include a ship, a buoy, a lighthouse and a crate. The view shows the opposite side of the island from the "Experience Edition" cover. In the lower left corner are the uppercase words "Gorillaz Plastic Beach" on separate rows. They are white and in a thick, wavy font.
Japanese standard edition
The cover of the "Experience Edition" of the third Gorillaz album "Plastic Beach". An artificial island rests on the ocean at night. Apart from the base, it is mostly mushroom-shaped. It contains a few palm trees and small buildings. At the very top is a large white building with many windows. Other objects in and around the island include a ship, a buoy, a lighthouse and a crate. The view shows the opposite side of the island from the standard edition covers. In the lower right corner are the uppercase words "Gorillaz Plastic Beach" on separate rows. They are white and in a thick, wavy font.
"Experience Edition" (CD + DVD)
The cover of the iTunes Deluxe Edition of the third Gorillaz album "Plastic Beach". An artificial island rests on the ocean at night. A green light is cast from the bottom of the sky. Apart from the base, it is mostly mushroom-shaped. It contains a few palm trees and small buildings. At the very top is a large white building with many windows. Other objects in and around the island include a ship, a buoy, a lighthouse and a crate. The view shows the opposite side of the island from the standard edition covers. In the lower right corner are the uppercase words "Gorillaz Plastic Beach" on separate rows. They are white and in a thick, wavy font.
iTunes deluxe edition (digital download)
Singles from Plastic Beach
  1. "Stylo"
    Released: 26 January 2010
  2. "Superfast Jellyfish"
    Released: 2010
  3. "On Melancholy Hill"
    Released: 2010


Plastic Beach is the third studio album by English virtual band Gorillaz, released 3 March 2010 on Parlophone and Virgin Records. Conceived from an unfinished Gorillaz project called Carousel, the album was recorded during June 2008 to November 2009 and produced primarily by group co-creator Damon Albarn. It features guest appearances by several artists, including Gruff Rhys, Bobby Womack, Mos Def, Lou Reed, Mick Jones, and the Hypnotic Brass Ensemble. Primarily a pop album, Plastic Beach contains lyrics concerning consumerism and ecology-related themes.

The album has produced three singles, "Stylo", "Superfast Jellyfish", and "On Melancholy Hill".[1]

Contents

Background

Carousel

Creators of Gorillaz, musician Damon Albarn and artist Jamie Hewlett, began working on a new Gorillaz project in November 2007 called Carousel,[2] which evolved into Plastic Beach, the group's third studio album.[3] In the November 2007 issue of Q, when asked what his top priority for 2008 was, Damon Albarn replied "Well, I'm doing the next Gorillaz thing, but it won't be called Gorillaz."[2] In the February 2008 Gorillaz-Unofficial interview, Jamie Hewlett elaborated on this, saying "I think the idea behind it is that it's like how The Who presented their movies – Tommy and Quadrophenia and so on. Those were presented as by 'The Who' even though none of the members of the band were in the movies. I don't think anyone from The Who was in Quadrophenia. But it's the same people working on it, that's the principle."[4] In a July 2008 interview with The Observer he also said, "Gorillaz now to us is not like four animated characters any more — it's more like an organisation of people doing new projects. [...] That's my ideal model — Gorillaz is a group of people who gave you this, and now want to give you new stuff."[5]

In the Observer interview, Hewlett said that there is "a new project which Damon and I are working on now, called Carousel, which is even bigger and more difficult than Monkey, and it isn't going to fit anywhere and no one's going to like it, ha ha ha! We've started work — I've done a lot of visuals and Damon's done a lot of music but we haven't figured out how they're going to fit together. I can't say much about it yet but it's sort of like a film, but not with one narrative story. There's many stories, told around a bigger story, set to music, and done in live action, animation, all different styles, well... originally it was a film but now we think it's a film and it's a stage thing as well and... look, it's basically us doing what the fuck we want without worrying about whether it's for a record company or a film company or whatever. So I'm not sure how it'll pan out, or even if it will happen. But Damon's written around 70 songs for it, and I've got great plans for the visuals, but right now, at this moment, it's still just a really good idea."[5] Carousel was to be about the mystical aspects of Britain.[3]

Concept

Damon Albarn got the idea for Plastic Beach while on a beach next to his house: "I was just looking for all the plastic within the sand", he said.[3] On 17 September 2008, Albarn and Jamie Hewlett announced that they would be doing another Gorillaz album in an interview with CBC News.[6] Hewlett said that from their work on Monkey, "we just learned more about what we do, musically and artistically. That's a great place to come at when we come to another Gorillaz album. It doesn't have to be animation and music".[7] Hewlett also expressed annoyance at having to draw the band members again: "I'm so fucking bored of drawing those characters. But then we had a moment where we had a new angle on it... I'm gonna adapt them".[6] In a later interview Hewlett said: "they'll be the same characters, but a little bit older and told in a different way".[8]

Albarn said in September 2008 that he wanted "to work with an incredibly eclectic, surprising cast of people".[9] As with previous Gorillaz albums, Plastic Beach features a number of collaborations with other musicians and music groups. The album features Snoop Dogg, Hypnotic Brass Ensemble, Kano, Bashy, Bobby Womack, Mos Def, Gruff Rhys, De La Soul, Little Dragon, Mark E. Smith, Lou Reed, Mick Jones, Paul Simonon, sinfonia ViVA and The Lebanese National Orchestra for Oriental Arabic Music.[10]

Recording

Albarn began recording material for a new Gorillaz album around June 2008.[11] He travelled to Beirut in March 2009 to record with the National Orchestra for Oriental Arabic Music.[12] The following month, he recorded with Derby-based orchestra sinfonia ViVa.[12] Grime rappers Kano and Bashy, who feature on "White Flag", both had the flu during recording. Kano said "We weren't feeling great, the music was out of our comfort zone, it could have been a complete disaster".[12] Bobby Womack knew nothing about Gorillaz and was initially unsure about the collaboration, however, his daughter liked Gorillaz and convinced him to do it.[13] Womack was told to sing whatever was on his mind during the recording of "Stylo". "I was in there for an hour going crazy about love and politics, getting it off my chest", said Womack.[12] After an hour of recording, Womack, a diabetic, started to pass out. He was sat down and given a banana, before waking up minutes later.[12] "Sweepstakes", the first song Mos Def recorded with Gorillaz,[14] was done in one take.[12] Mos Def described the song as "one of the greatest things as an MC that I've ever done".[14] Mick Jones and Paul Simonon completed their portion of the title track "Plastic Beach" in a day.[12]

Several musicians who collaborated on songs for the album did not end up having all or any of their songs appear on the final album; some guests announced to have collaborated with the band do not feature on the album. British garage rock band The Horrors were invited to play on the album after Albarn heard their 2009 album Primary Colours.[15] They recorded a track with Albarn,[16] but no songs with the band appear on the final album. In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Posdnuos of De La Soul said that the group had provided vocals on two songs for the album, "Electric Shock" and "Sloped Tropics".[17] De La Soul only features on one song on the album, titled "Superfast Jellyfish". Gruff Rhys recorded two songs — "Superfast Jellyfish" and "Leviathan". The latter, described by Rhys as "more of a night-time song, a three o'clock in the morning, speeding down the autobahn evading West German police-type track", does not feature on the album.[12] Mos Def said that he collaborated with Albarn on three songs,[14] however, he only appears on two songs on the album. Albarn had previously announced that musician Barry Gibb would feature on the album but Gibb does not appear on any of the album's tracks.[3] Animated Gorillaz bassist Murdoc said the band had collaborated with actress Una Stubbs,[11] however, she too does not appear on any of the album's tracks.

Music

Albarn said in an interview, "I'm making this one the most pop record I've ever made in many ways, but with all my experience to try and at least present something that has got depth."[3] He added, "I suppose what I've done with this Gorillaz record is I've tried to connect pop sensibility with ... trying to make people understand the essential melancholy of buying a ready made meal in loads of plastic packaging. People who watch X Factor might have some emotional connection to these things, this detritus that accompanies what seems to be the most important thing in people's eyes, the celebrity voyeurism."[3]

The first time Albarn went to Mali, he was taken to a landfill where he saw people "taking every little bit, a little bit of fabric to the fabric regenerators, or the metal and the cans to the ironsmiths and the aluminium recyclers, and it goes on and by the time you get to the road, they're selling stuff."[3] When Albarn went to a landfill outside of London to record the sound of seagulls for the album, he noticed a juxtaposition between the way the two countries dealt with rubbish.[3] "They've got more snakes... like adders, grass snakes, slow worms, toads, frogs, newts, all kinds of rodents, all kinds of squirrels, a massive amount of squirrels, a massive amount of foxes, and obviously, seagulls. [...] This is part of the new ecology. And for the first time I saw the world in a new way. I've always felt, I'm trying to get across on this new record, the idea that plastic, we see it as being against nature but it's come out of nature. We didn't create plastic, nature created plastic. And just seeing the snakes like living in the warmth of decomposing plastic bags. They like it. It was a strange kind of optimism that I felt... but trying to get that into pop music is a challenge, anyway. But important."[3]

Albarn says the album maintains a lot of the melancholy from Carousel.[3] He worked hard on making his lyrics and melodies clear on the album.[3] "Loads of orchestral stuff" was recorded but only a fraction made it onto the final album.[3]

Release and promotion

On a black background is red uppercase text in a thick wavy font. The top line says "Gorillaz", the second line says "Plastic" and the third line says "Beach".
The "Plastic Beach" logo used in promotional videos

A new picture of the band was published on 9 December 2009 on the cover of the UK edition of Wired magazine. On 14 January 2009, Albarn made an appearance as a guest DJ on BBC Radio 1, premiering demos of three new Gorillaz songs — "Electric Shock", "Broken" and "Stylo".[18]. "Stylo" went to be heavily edited in its final version, while "Broken" remained mostly unchanged. Electric Shock did not make the Album, though samples of the song were used in "Rhinestone Eyes", as well as the intro orchestral separated into bonus track "Three Hearts, Seven Seas, Twelve Moons".

On 20 January 2010, the official Gorillaz website was heavily revamped to fit the "Plastic Beach" theme. Over a period of time, a numerous amount of short clips were posted on the site, mainly showing various shots of a large Plastic Beach model backed by segments of new Gorillaz music. Out of the 13 short clips, only 2 of the clips had audio that would eventually end up on the album. The tracks were "White Flag" and "Pirate's Progress" (an extended version of the Orchestral Intro found on the album). Also on the website was a countdown timer, which on 23 February 2010 counted down to zero. After a significant delay, a new full Kong studios-esque interactive Plastic Beach "Beachsite" was uploaded onto the website, opening certain sections of Plastic Beach to be visited by guests.

On 21 January 2010, Gorillaz member Murdoc "took over" NME Radio and Yahoo! Radio. He played a 45 minute set of songs while providing exposition on the story of Gorillaz. A total of four broadcasts were uploaded online, leading to the release of the album. All four are now available on the official Gorillaz website.

Short animated "idents" have been released for fictional band members Murdoc, 2D, and Russel. The first depicts Murdoc fleeing from an unknown, rifle-wielding assailant, and the second depicts 2D's abduction and transportation to Plastic Beach by a masked figure. Russel's ident has recently been released, in which he is seen stomping off of the edge of a pier and diving into the ocean, presumably headed to Plastic Beach for reasons unknown. While neither Noodle nor her cyborg counterpart have ident videos, a young woman wearing a traditionally asian outfit and japanese cat mask is shown between Russel and 2D's ident clips in the Plastic Beach television ad, and promotional artwork pairs her with Russel, as Noodle traditionally was during Phase 2.

On 26 February 2010, a "minimix" of the album was made available on the official website to download for free.[19] The minimix is an eight-minute composition of songs from the album, a number of which had not been previously released.

"Welcome to the World of the Plastic Beach", "Rhinestone Eyes" and "White Flag" were premiered on the Australian radio station Triple J on 28 February 2010, in respective order, at one hour intervals.

On 1 March 2010, NPR debuted the entire album via streaming.[20] Later on in the day, the album also become available for streaming at Guardian.co.uk.[21]

Singles

Reception

Critical response

 Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 3.5/5 stars[22]
Entertainment Weekly (B)[23]
The Guardian 4/5 stars[24]
The New York Times (mixed)[25]
Pitchfork Media (8.5/10)[26]
PopMatters (7/10)[27]
Q 5/5 stars[28]
Rolling Stone 3.5/5 stars[29]
Slant Magazine 5/5 stars[30]
The Village Voice (favorable)[31]

Upon its release, Plastic Beach received general acclaim from most music critics, based on an aggregate score of 79/100 from Metacritic.[32] Allmusic writer Stephen Thomas Erlewine gave it 3½ out of 5 stars and called it "the first Gorillaz album to play like a soundtrack to a cartoon", writing "which isn’t entirely a bad thing, because as Albarn grows as a composer, he’s a master of subtly shifting moods and intricately threaded allusions, often creating richly detailed collages that are miniature marvels."[22] Q's David Everley gave the album 5 out of 5 stars and described it as "some of the most forward-thinking pop you'll hear this or any year."[28] Mark Beaumont of BBC Online called 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."[33] Pitchfork Media writer Sean Fennessey gave it an 8.5/10 rating and called Damon Albarn's compositions "blatantly gorgeous", stating "The one-time Blur frontman has transcended some of the post-modern artifice of this project, and created the group's most affecting and uniquely inviting album. Joke's over, Gorillaz are real".[26] Andy Gill of The Independent gave it 4 out of 5 stars and wrote favorably of the album's guest contributors, particularly Mos Def and Bobby Womack on the track "Stylo".[34] Drowned in Sound writer Wendy Roby gave it an 8/10 rating and stated "past the pop songs, past the soaring (and let’s not make any bones about it, this album soars in places) this is a supremely clever album."[35] Rolling Stone's Rob Sheffield gave the album 3½ out of 5 stars and cited it as "Gorillaz's third excellent album in a row".[29]

However, Los Angeles Times writer Mikael Wood gave the album 1½ out of 4 stars and stated "Too many of these 16 hazy, half-crazy tracks sound like undercooked studio goofs".[36] Wood panned its second half and wrote that it "plays like one long, jammy drone, with none of Albarn's melodic or lyrical gifts on display".[36] Danny Eccleston of Mojo gave it 3 out of 5 stars and wrote "Albarn and co's eco-parable is loud but not clear."[37] The Washington Post's Allison Stewart viewed its content as excessive, writing "Plastic Beach, long and synth-crazy and diffuse, can be a slog, a potentially great album suffering from an excess of everything."[38] Entertainment Weekly's Leah Greenblatt gave Plastic Beach a B rating and viewed its "sonic drift" as "dull, and even dispiriting" in the album's second half, stating "In the end, Beach offers a vision of the future as digitized kitsch: groovy, yes, but lonely too".[23] The New York Times writer Jon Caramanica viewed its music as "thin and inconsequential, car-commercial electronic funk and tension-free hip-hop", while writing "It’s an appealing mess, moving at a fever pitch until swelling to something like an enthused climax. But still, a mess".[25] Nick Annan of Clash gave it a 7/10 rating and stated "Of course, there’s alot [sic] here to take in and maybe it just needs a fair few listens to fully digest it - the sign of any album worth its salt."[39] The Guardian's Alexis Petridis gave the album 4 out of 5 stars and commended Damon Albarn for his "kaleidoscopic musical ambition", and wrote "Not all of Plastic Beach's concoctions work [...] but there's something hugely impressive about Albarn's ability to coax artists out of their comfort zone."[24]

Giving it 3 out of 4 stars, Chicago Tribune writer Greg Kot viewed the album as "slightly less immediate" than previous Gorillaz albums, but praised Albarn's execution, writing "Albarn’s great talent is in bringing together seemingly mismatched elements from different cultures, genres and generations and creating something wonderful".[40] Despite writing that it "runs out of steam toward the end", The A.V. Club's Noel Murray gave Plastic Beach a B+ rating and perceived it as a "more urgent and less fiddly" improvement over its predecessors.[41] Uncut gave it 4 out of 5 stars and called it "a brilliant concept album, full of perfect pop singles."[42] NME gave Plastic Beach a 7/10 rating and stated "So what is Gorillaz at the start of a new decade? [...] What it definitely still is, though, is good music."[43] In a generally positive review, Miles Marshall Lewis of The Village Voice wrote favorably of its "guest stars and gravitas", calling the album "by turns atmospheric ('Glitter Freeze'), capricious ('Pirate Jet'), and electronically funky ('Rhinestone Eyes')".[31] Despite writing that it "isn’t an artistic triumph or grand satirical gesture", PopMatters writer Michael Kabran gave the album a 7/10 rating and called it "an enjoyable ride and is the best place to start if you just want a taste of Albarn’s post-Blur musical prowess and Hewlett’s animation wizardry".[27] Spin's Jon Dolan called it "a jumble" and commended Albarn for his production.[44] In a rave review of the album, Huw Jones of Slant Magazine praised Albarn's musicianship and wrote "Plastic Beach provides the almighty shakeup that pop music has needed for some time".[30] The Times writer Pete Paphides wrote favorably of the album's diverse sound and stated "this concept group has delivered its most fully realised concept album".[45]

Track listing

Track Title Writer(s) Length
1. "Orchestral Intro" (featuring sinfonia ViVA) Gorillaz 1:09
2. "Welcome to the World of the Plastic Beach" (featuring Snoop Dogg and Hypnotic Brass Ensemble) Gorillaz, Snoop Dogg 3:35
3. "White Flag" (featuring Bashy, Kano, and The Lebanese National Orchestra for Oriental Arabic Music) Gorillaz, Bashy, Kano 3:43
4. "Rhinestone Eyes"   Gorillaz 3:20
5. "Stylo" (featuring Bobby Womack and Mos Def) Gorillaz, Mos Def 4:30
6. "Superfast Jellyfish" (featuring Gruff Rhys and De La Soul) Gorillaz, De La Soul, Gruff Rhys 2:54
7. "Empire Ants" (featuring Little Dragon) Gorillaz, Yukimi Nagano 4:43
8. "Glitter Freeze" (featuring Mark E. Smith) Gorillaz, Mark E. Smith 4:03
9. "Some Kind of Nature" (featuring Lou Reed) Gorillaz, Lou Reed 2:59
10. "On Melancholy Hill"   Gorillaz 3:53
11. "Broken"   Gorillaz 3:17
12. "Sweepstakes" (featuring Mos Def and Hypnotic Brass Ensemble) Gorillaz, Mos Def 5:20
13. "Plastic Beach" (featuring Mick Jones and Paul Simonon) Gorillaz 3:47
14. "To Binge" (featuring Little Dragon) Gorillaz, Yukimi Nagano 3:55
15. "Cloud of Unknowing" (featuring Bobby Womack and sinfonia ViVA) Gorillaz 3:06
16. "Pirate Jet"   Gorillaz 2:32
56:46

Charts

Chart (2010) Peak
position
Australian Albums Chart[46] 1
Austrian Albums Chart[46] 1
Belgian Albums Chart[46] 12
Dutch Albums Chart[46] 8
Irish Albums Chart[46] 4
New Zealand Albums Chart[46] 4
Norway Albums Chart[46] 6
Polish Albums Chart[46] 30
Portuguese Albums Chart[46] 4
Swiss Albums Chart[46] 2
UK Albums Chart[46] 2
US Billboard 200[47] 2
US Alternative Albums 1
US Rock Albums 1

Release history

Release dates

Date Country
2010-03-03 Japan[48]
2010-03-05 Australia[49]
Germany[50]
Ireland[51]
2010-03-08 New Zealand[52]
Norway[53]
Sweden[54]
Denmark[55]
France[56]
United Kingdom[57]
2010-03-09 South Africa[58]
Canada[59]
United States[10]
2010-03-11 South Korea[60]
2010-03-12 Brazil[61]

Comparison of Plastic Beach editions

"Plastic Beach" was released in a total of five editions, many of which contain a multitude of exclusive features. These are shown below:

Standard Edition "Experience Edition" Japanese Standard Edition Japanese "Experience Edition" iTunes Deluxe Edition
Standard 16 tracks Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Bonus track "Pirate's Progress" No No Yes Yes Yes
Bonus track "Three Hearts, Seven Seas, Twelve Moons" No No No No Yes
Stickers No No No Yes No
Poster No No No Yes No
"Making of Plastic Beach" video No Yes No Yes No
Access to "locked" rooms on gorillaz.com No Yes No Yes No
Access to online "Escape to Plastic Beach" game No Yes No Yes No
Access to online live stream access No Yes No Yes Yes
Access to online screensaver(s)* No Yes No Yes Yes
Access to online wallpapers* Yes Yes No Yes Yes
Lyrics No Partial
(physical booklet)
Yes
(physical booklet)
Yes
(physical booklet)
Yes
(digital)
Stylo music video in HD No No No No Yes
Artwork gallery No No No No Yes
"Fishtank" game No No No No Yes
"Making of Stylo" video No No No No Yes
Mini videos for several tracks No No No No Yes
Storybook No No No No Yes
T-shirt** Depends Depends No No No

* Note: The wallpapers and screensaver(s) offered may vary depending on the edition.
** Note: The T-shirt offered varies depending on the edition.

References

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  11. ^ a b Stokes, Paul (23 January 2010). "Unfinished monkey business". NME: 6–7. 
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  17. ^ Vozick-Levinson, Simon (28 May 2009). "De La Soul's Posdnuos on their Nike mix, their next album, and working again with Gorillaz". Entertainment Weekly. Archived from the original on 22 January 2010. http://www.webcitation.org/5my2Cslzb. Retrieved 29 May 2009. 
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  20. ^ Daniel Kreps. "Gorillaz Debut New “Plastic Beach” Track “Superfast Jellyfish” : Rolling Stone : Rock and Roll Daily". Rolling Stone. http://www.rollingstone.com/rockdaily/index.php/2010/02/26/gorillaz-debut-new-plastic-beach-track-superfast-jellyfish/. Retrieved 2010-02-28. 
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