The world’s favorite animated band has moved up their influences from the street level of hip-hop to the party music of penthouses with their third release, Plastic Beach. Those looking for another Demon Days might initially be disappointed on their first play through when they discover synthesizers hold dominion over the album rather than the beats and bass lines of their first two records. But after allowing an ample period of digestion, fans won’t be able to deny the quality and logical progression that 2-D, Murdoc, Noodle, and Russel have accomplished with Plastic Beach. Not only are their tunes as catchy and original as they’ve always been, but Damon Albarn and the bunch have also invited some of their friends to share the fun this time around. You may have heard of some of them: Snoop Dogg, Mos Def, and Lou Reed. Not to mention ex-Clash members Mick Jones and Paul Simonon contributing to the album’s title track (my personal favorite).
This is exactly what you should want from any respectable group’s third album: a variation in sound that doesn’t sacrifice the attitude you’ve come to love them for. I mean, what other group could feature the pairing of De La Soul with Gruff Rhys (of Sparklehorse) singing about breakfast foods on a track titled “Superfast Jellyfish”…and yet you would expect no less? In order to maintain their status as one of the most original acts of 21st century, the cartoon quartet knew another adaptation of “Feel Good Inc.” or “Clint Eastwood” just wouldn’t suffice. So instead the listeners are treated with the atmospheric “Empire Ants,” with its ‘80s-sounding keyboard work, and “To Binge,” a reggae-like melody over sweeping synths — both tracks featuring Swedish electronic band Little Dragon.
Plastic Beach is now available in both a regular and deluxe version, the latter containing two additional tracks, “Pirate’s Progress” and “Three Hearts, Seven Seas, Twelve Moons.”
(Virgin Records, no address provided)