Why are the Gorrilaz animated

Gorillaz : The garbage, the island and the money

The financial crisis is also causing problems for rock stars. Gorillaz bassist Murdoc Niccals, for example, bought windy papers from speculator charlatan Bernard Madoff and went broke. He saw a way out in the arms trade, which did not go well for long: Since he was selling inferior second-hand goods, he soon had to deal with a number of dissatisfied customers. One group of pirates in particular persisted and pursued the chain-smoking eccentric around the world.

Murdoc was hiding deep in the South Pacific on an island of pink-painted plastic garbage. On top of that there is a white bungalow with palm trees. The perfect ambience to finally concentrate on the music again. The money has to come from somewhere.

The prehistory to “Plastic Beach”, the third and, according to Murdoc, probably the last album by the Gorillaz, contains at least a hundred other absurd details that, as always, make up a large part of the fun with this band. The cartoon gang, invented in 2001 by tank girl artist Jamie Hewlett and Blur singer Damon Albarn, consists of Murdoc, the blue-haired singer 2D, the Japanese guitarist Noodles and the black drummer Russel. In their videos they experience all kinds of adventures with zombies, giant elks and flying rocks. In their latest clip they appear animated for the first time and engage in a wild car chase with Bruce Willis.

The fact that the media-shy Damon Albarn can disappear behind the manga characters and at the same time is mega-present is one of his numerous strokes of genius over the past decade. It's almost frightening how confident Albarn has been since the end of his band Blur. With the supergroup The Good The Bad and The Queen he released a highly acclaimed album, composed the Chinese opera “Monkey: Journey to the West”, produced the African pop duo Amadou & Mariam and financed the London label Honest Jon’s.

The 41-year-old's most fascinating project is still the Gorillaz, who sold around six million copies of both their debut and their second album, "Demon Days" (2005). They even celebrated success - still a rarity for the British - in the USA. Their mix of hip-hop, dub, electro and pop is so capable of consensus that it is played both at hipster parties and on children's birthdays. You just have to dance to hits like “Clint Eastwood”, “Feel Good Inc.” or “Dare”.

Damon Albarn doesn't manage to get a hit of this caliber on “Plastic Beach”. Nevertheless it turned out to be a great album again, which once again puts all Gorillaz strengths in the spotlight: catchy melodies, sovereign genre crossover, clever production and an impressive guest list. After an orchestral intro, old gangsta rap master Snoop Dogg greets the listeners in the casually grooving "Welcome to the World of The Plastic Beach" on the garbage island, which seems to be an astonishingly good breeding ground for synthesizer plants. The way Albarn layers the squeaking, whimpering and rotating tracks on top of and next to each other on this album is simply great. He avoids the currently omnipresent eighties touch, for which bands like La Roux, Cold Cave or the Editors stand with their enthusiasm for keys.

The artistic autonomy of the third Gorillaz album is noticeable anyway. Albarn has achieved the status of no longer having to prove anything, which allows him to simply try out what it sounds like to team up the Lebanese National Orchestra For Arabic Music with the British grime greats Kano and Bashy. Like with “Empire Ants” he likes to turn in a completely different direction in the middle of a song or sometimes really annoying like with the siren-howling number “Glitter Freeze”.

“Plastic Beach” never drifts into the esoteric or experimental. The will to big pop is always noticeable. With “Stylo”, Albarn made the first single that is an instant catchy tune due to its provocatively simple, endlessly repeated bassline. And whenever it gets a bit monotonous, something new happens like an explosive appearance by guest singer Bobby Womack.

The Gorillaz have always had a heart for aging stars like Ike Turner or Ibrahim Ferrer. But this time they go one better: In addition to Snoop Dogg and Bobby Womack, Lou Reed and Mark E. Smith are there. A small sensation: Mick Jones and Paul Simonon recorded a song together for the first time since The Clash ended 25 years ago. Other guests include Gruff Rhys, De La Soul, Mos Def, Little Dragon and the classic Sinfonia ViVa, all of whom are extremely useful.

Damon Albarn still sings the most striking melodies himself. His clear baritone - often slightly distorted - is heard for the first time on “Rhinestone Eyes”, the fourth and strongest piece on the record. It starts off like an old computer game soundtrack, and after a minute of introducing drums and a synth riff, it evolves into one of those flawless pop gems that Albarn cannot be praised enough for.

"Plastic Beach" is out today on EMI.

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