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Album review: 'Plastic Beach' from the Gorillaz

March 8, 2010 |  6:34 pm

Gorillaz_240 Damon Albarn formed this heady cartoon-band side project to keep himself entertained while on hiatus from his seminal Britpop act, Blur. Stuffed as they were with electro-pop hooks and globe-tripping grooves, the first two Gorillaz albums never actually felt like side-project material -- especially in the U.S., where left-field hits such as "Clint Eastwood" and "Feel Good Inc" gained more traction on American radio than Blur ever did.

Last year Albarn re-teamed with Blur's original lineup for a series of rapturously received reunion shows, and though that was great news for Blur fans, you can hear the result of the frontman's divided attention throughout the third Gorillaz album, "Plastic Beach."

Too many of these 16 hazy, half-crazy tracks sound like undercooked studio goofs recorded in the wee hours by Albarn and his impressive circle of celebrity pals.

A handful of standouts crop up early on: "White Flag" pairs the clipped rhymes of U.K. rappers Bashy and Kano with hypnotic Middle Eastern strings, while "Stylo," the album's disco-fied lead single, makes great use of Bobby Womack's growly soul vocals.

But the second half of "Plastic Beach" plays like one long, jammy drone, with none of Albarn's melodic or lyrical gifts on display; not even Mick Jones and Paul Simonon of the Clash are able to rescue the title track from vintage-synth tedium.

-- Mikael Wood 

"Plastic Beach"
One and a half stars (Out of four)