Everyone’s favorite genre-blending virtual musical group has returned after a five year hiatus. This time out, Damion Albarn (former Blur front-man and all around musical legend) has gone it alone on the production duties and further shifted the group’s musical trajectory. Without the hip hop-heavy influences of former co-producers Dan the Automator and Danger Mouse (Gorillaz and Demon Days, respectively), Albarn has ventured deeper into electronic territory, crafting a synthpop album that is more “Dirty Harry” than “Clint Eastwood,” and without a doubt the group’s best work to date. There are still a few forays into hip hop this go round, but they seem almost out of place (with the exception of a couple of brief Mos Def verses), as does the album’s orchestral intro. And yet one the group’s greatest strengths has always been it’s ability to incorporate vastly disparate elements into a cohesive whole (fusing hip hop, alternative rock, and animation for example). And thus a guest-list which features Lou Reed, Bobby Womack, Mick Jones, De la Soul, and Little Dragon not only works, but works to brilliant effect (side note: Could be greatest supergroup ever. We’ll call them P,B &J and the Fun Dip Experience. Gold mine!). And though a few of the albums opening and closing tracks may seem a bit extraneous (ahem, worst Snoop Dogg cameo ever, with all due respect to Starsky & Hutch. This it is not.), the core of the album (tracks 4 through 14) ranks among the best music of the year. An absolute must own. So buy it already. Geez.
Plastic Beach is out now via Parlophone. Buy it here. Or eat a delicious english muffin.