Gorillaz “Plastic Beach” (Virgin)
As Damon Albarn predicted with Gorillaz’ 2001 debut and 2005 follow-up, “Demon Days,” the sun-blasted apocalyptic wasteland is going to sound amazing. Long proven as one of pop’s great polyglots, the former Blur man sews styles together without making them sound like patchworks. “Plastic Beach” continues in the superlative Gorillaz tradition of near-future pop for a shocking tomorrow; it’s great combat-driving music for the Mad Max generation.
While it’s furiously recombining and recontextualizing our present and the recent past for future dance parties, “Plastic Beach” is still, at its heart, a collection of great songs. “Rhinestone Eyes” stands as one of Gorillaz’ best wasteland-pop tracks, as Albarn sings longingly of a woman (or machine) whose “rhinestone eyes are like factories far away.” “Stylo” delivers even more immediate pleasure as Albarn, Mos Def and the great Bobby Womack trade lines over an electro-pulse update of early ’70s Marvin Gaye.
Other guest spots include a superbly laconic turn by Lou Reed on “Some Kind of Nature,” The Fall’s Mark E. Smith on “Glitter Freeze,” and Gruff Rhys and De La Soul on the goofy cereal jingle “Superfast Jellyfish” — the ante is clearly upped on “Plastic Beach.” But Albarn reserves some of the best moments for himself: If any John Hughes scripts are released from the vault, “On Melancholy Hill” would be great for the climactic kiss scene. If the future will be run-down or “Broken,” as the title of Albarn’s great mournful ballad from “Plastic Beach” suggests, Gorillaz can make the best of what’s still around.