Jonny‘s recent ICA on Sideshows was very timely as it dovetails nicely with a piece that I had written up, just looking for the right time to post.
Gorillaz is one of the many sideshow collaborations involving Damon Albarn. I knew that I hadn’t kept fully up to speed with everything that the virtual band has released over the years, but I was surprised to find that it’s now ten years since I last bought any of their music.
Plastic Beach was the group’s third album, following on from the excellent self-titled debut in 2001 and the 2005 follow-up, Demon Days. It’s an album that leaned very heavily on guest appearances, with no less than ten of its sixteen tracks featuring another well-known name from the worlds of pop, rock, rap and soul music. It’s an album that really did some getting used to as it was different in tone, texture and flow from its predecessors. Even now, it’s one that I really need to be in the right sort of frame and mindset to give it a listen as it demands a degree of undivided attention – for instance, I’ve never been able to sit and listen to it all the way through while travelling on a bus or train; it sort of feels as if the i=pod is on shuffle such is the coming and going of lead singers and the ever-changing genres across the tracks. It’s also a concept album, of sorts, which itself always demand as a level of concentration and buy-in than most.
Looking back at the reviews of the day, there was clearly a lot of love among the critics for the album, welcoming its ambition, diversity and the fact that Albarn & co. weren’t resting on their laurels. There was a divided opinion on whether or not all of the guest contributions worked, but it’s also interesting to note that where there is criticism of the way that say, Snoop Dogg or Lou Reed have contributed, there’s another opinion in another publication which says these are among the best bits of the album.
My favourite moment on comes on track six, when Gruff Rhys and De La Soul combine superbly, surely I’m not alone in wishing they had collaborated previously on a Super Furry Animals album?
Here’s a few more of the guest appearances
The guests who I haven’t fetured today include The Hypnotic Brass Ensemble, Kano, Bashy, Little Dragon, Mark E. Smith, Mick Jones, Paul Simonon, sinfonia ViVA and the Lebanese National Orchestra for Oriental Arabic Music. Feel more than free to go check them out in the usual places….