It appears surreal to say the least to have another Gorillaz album drop less than a year after the release of ‘Plastic Beach’, usually there’s a four to five year gap between each record; more than enough time to truly digest each effort.
I suppose “surreal” is maybe the best term to use here, as in most respects this doesn’t feel like an album and more like a “P-sides”, primary reason being that this was recorded all across 32 days between Montreal and Vancouver on the Escape to Plastic Beach US tour last Autumn using various applications on an iPad and recorded mainly by Damon Albarn himself. So in a lot of ways this feels more like a solo album and less like a Gorillaz album.
I have no doubt that this album will be met with lots of criticism, most of which can be found just buy using Google and reading your typical music magazines and other related websites. But remember when it was first announced that Albarn would be forming Gorillaz, he wanted to cut out the nonsense that comes with being in your typical band that is moderately if not highly successful in the industry. He wanted to cut out the promotion, tour cycles and boredom of waiting on the road etc etc. You get the picture. What he does here is taking that notion but amplifying it to spread across an entire album. Hardly any promotion except word of mouth, dropping it as a “free” download around the end of last year and announcing that it would be physically released around the time of Record Store Day…I can think of only one other band that can get away with dropping releases purely out of word of mouth without being accused of pretentiousness in the slightest. And we all know the band I’m referring to here, right?
So is it a typcial, linear album full of typical song structures of verse chorus verse chorus? No. But it is still solid and consistent throughout and more than anything is an undeniable portrayal of how innovative and inventive a songwriter that Damon Albarn is.
Having said that I can tell you now that there are no “Clint Eastwood”s, there are no “Dare”s and there are no “Feel Good Inc”s; this is an album meant to be listened to and digested all the way through in its entirety. There aren’t any typical single-worthy tracks that one could so easily find on previous Gorillaz albums. However tracks like “Revolving Doors” will leave you humming along to hours after first listen
There seems to be far less pressure involved here. Slow, gentle and beautiful listens. Full of ideas and experiments from a man trying out the latest technology and what it could contribute to Gorillaz in the next chapter of their career.
Through lack of post-production and creativity bound by studio time and boundaries this feels delicate and unrestrained, slow-burning, relaxed and easy on the ears; in fact it could very easily fall into the category of easy-listening. “Joplin Spider” is another standout track, “Hillbilly Man” and “Little Pink Plastic Bags are other notable highlights but “Detroit takes you out your dream-like state and snaps you into a reality where you realise this was made with an iPad; which is shame really as Damon Albarn has been clever enough to craft it into something masterful and clever almost as if these were leftover sessions from mucking around whilst recording in the studio for ‘Plastic Beach’.
For all the criticisms that this album will no doubt receive, please ignore for a second whilst listening to this album and just let it wash over you. It really is beautiful and breezy. We can only imagine what this album would have sounded like if he had taken these, ideas and at times what feel like initial skeletons of tracks, into the studio and beefed up the production to turn it into a fully-fledged album. Maybe. But we more or less know that Albarn wanted a different feel for this and he didn’t want to turn out this album in the typical way.
Aside from a few minor flaws here and there, this is a good solid album considering the time and tools he recorded it with. I’m going to give this album an eight 😀