Two talents: a musician and a visualist– embark on a collaboration that is both timely and topical, the fusion of whose efforts proves a perfect melange, exporting products (for lack of a better word) that feel tailor-made for the times. I’ve been on board since the first record (having already been a fan of both Blur and the Tank Girl comics). The latest release magnifies the merit of Gorillaz initial efforts in terms of smart art-making.
On closer inspection additional layers of *smart* become apparent. The fact the ‘band’ consists of drawn (virtual) characters opens so many possibilities; to wit: 1. the band members need never age (simultaneously alleviating and mocking-by-playing-to problems of celebrity); 2. the ‘band members’ can express/say anything that comes into their minds, with far less fallout than were they ‘real’; 3. their virtual nature allows for endless and endlessly divergent narratives without the bromide of public wretchedness that so often accompanies star culture; 4. the fluidity of the format allows for endless influx of additional talent– a gain for both Gorillaz and their guests; 5. the state of the [animation] art is prime to allow pretty much anything imaginable in the songs’ accompanying videos.
As if all that weren’t enough, Gorillaz takes its format further. The music is cross-genre mix of pop, dance, hip-hop, dub, etc. that manages to appeal to a wide range, including people who don’t normally listen to even one of those genres. Smart song-writing, intuitive collaboration and compelling, world’s-end lyrics are equally food for thought and hook-filled music-junkie fodder– it’s the best sort of reminder of how things can get bigger and better through collaboration. Equal to previous releases and evidencing a satisfying arc, Plastic Beach is loaded with ohrwurms of the best kind– even as it laments “Nature’s corrupted– in factories far away...”
And for all us Blur fans there’s the additional satisfaction of Gorillaz being a sort of final proof that, in the aftermath of the absurd Blur v. Oasis media wars, Blur was clearly the winner– we knew it all along, but Albarn’s ongoing creative legacy rather cements it.