By now, no matter what area of the country you live in—you’ve likely been impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. Whether you’re working from home, quarantined due to potential exposure, or one of few still in the office, this is a time when music might be needed more than ever. Having things that keep you motivated and in your element are essential when everything else around you is changing. Because of that, I’m going to highlight one of my favorite bands of all time, one that will help me get through these unprecedented times.
Many, many years ago, I featured a group of guys that started a band, but weren’t exactly taking stages around the world. Calling themselves Gorillaz, they were a trio making super experimental music without any real fanfare. As discussed, that debut album was so successful and high selling, what maybe could have been a one-release group decided to keep it going and make more tunes.
It took four years, but their sophomore record came out to similar accolades. Millions of albums sold, hit singles and critical success—it started to feel like this band of virtual misfits in their own virtual world could do no wrong. Musicians from all genres and walks of life wanted to collaborate with them, studios wanted to make feature films of their story, and they were getting booked to do virtual concerts all over the world. They even won perhaps music’s highest honor, with a Grammy Award for “Best Pop Collaboration with Vocals” in 2006.
Today I’m focusing in on their third studio effort titled Plastic Beach which released in March of 2010. Capitalizing on the collabo success, the album features cameos from Snoop Dogg, Bobby Womack, and Lou Reed just to name a few. The response was mostly positive initially from critics, but later the effort would be referred to as one of the best albums of the decade in hindsight. Eight different music publications featured it in their top ten.
Plastic Beach debuted at number two on the Billboard 200 in the U.S. and U.K. charts alike. This one was perhaps a bit of a departure from previous work in that it could be viewed as a bit more poppy and less eclectic than prior works. It still utilizes their signature electro-funk-hip-hop/pop blend, but with much higher production and tighter hooks. Plastic Beach seems to focus more on the melody and an environmental sound space versus lyrics and poppy beats, however it’s clearly still a Gorillaz album. Unlike others, you’re not likely to hear a handful of tracks on nationwide top 40 and then the rest are simply fillers. It’s a quality record from start to finish—a Gorillaz signature.
What makes this such a unique, odd record might be the same reason why I personally love it. The collaborators are so different, each song feels like a whole new band. Perhaps my favorite songs feature a Japanese heritage artist born in Sweden, and the Lebanese National Orchestra for Oriental Arabic Music.
It’s humorous reading through critical reviews, because every writer seemed to focus on a song or two and end up labeling the record as a significantly different genre. And sometimes because the music is so fresh, they ended up creating a new one—out of sheer confusion on what to call it. Because of the success of Plastic Beach, Gorillaz were asked to headline Coachella in 2010—and their list of awards and accolades only continued to grow from there.
There are millions of quips I could have written, and this could easily have been a two thousand word blog this week. Instead, I ask you to give it a listen. I waived my white flag and surrendered to the Gorillaz’s outstanding style years ago. Whether you’re cooped up or still have your daily commute, this one is sure to make your Tuesday just a little better—and we all could use that these days. Enjoy!
Top 3 Tracks: