In the lair of Gorillaz
On March 8 the highly anticipated third album of Gorillaz is released. We have exclusively heard it and visited their Plastic Beach in London. The group’s previous two albums sold 12 million copies between them.
LONDON, FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
This feels like a thriller novel. A meeting at Fleur de Lis Street ( unspecified number!) in east London. The neighborhood is becoming a trendy East Village for artists, but in a murky alley straight out of a Dickens novel, you’re more impressed by the yellow brick warehouses, blackened by time, condemned doors and windows.
There a representative from EMI London awaits us. He does not know himself where the place chosen by the management of Gorillaz for an original display, a one-week installation in a warehouse converted in studio pictures. We are the first to visit the place. A phone call and a few seconds later a metallic red door miraculously opens. Before you even know what is going on, a body search with metal detector is organized. It is prohibited to enter with a mobile phone, camera or other digital instrument. This is a duty for us in order to pass from the real world to the virtual world of Gorillaz.
To welcome us, a room with a large screen and new paintings on the walls by Jamie Hewlett, the designer of all the images of the group consisting of cartoon characters, including "2D", aka Damon Albarn (read MAD next Wednesday's interview with "3D", Massive Attack, which reveals where does the nickname "2D"comes from ). On the paintings, we find "2D", the Japanese guitarist Noodle, the bassist Murdoc Niccals and drummer Russel Hobbs. But also Lou Reed eating cable-shaped pasta.
Gorillaz, of which we had no news since the last concert at the Apollo in Harlem, April 6, 2006, are back. And the event is of a size in keeping with the fact that they have twice sold 6 million albums worldwide (Gorillaz in 2000 [sic] and Demon days in 2005).
Gorillaz invented the concept of virtual group (remember its first performance at the MTV Europe Music Awards, where musicians were hidden behind a screen on which were playing animated characters). Musically, they have also invented a platform based on cooperation. Rap, electro, rock, soul, pop, symphonic ... Everything is good for this explosive cocktail like no other.
First observation on Gorillaz’ third opus: Murdoc took control over everything concerning the concept of Plastic Beach and left in 2D’s care the musical aspect. In the making of the album which is showed to us , it is Murdoc, our host, who invites us to join him on the beach of plastic located in the Pacific Ocean (Location: 48 º 52'36''S, 123 ° 23'36 "W). He tells us that after the Apocalypse, the group went to take refuge on this island that looks like a rock
Before exploring this beach, we see thirteen 3D teasers and the animated storyboard for "Stylo", the first single released on the Gorillaz website. A song that’s at first innocuous but quickly infiltrates the mind like an insidious drug. Mos Def and Bobby Womack are the singers and on our website (lesoir.be / frontstage), we can hear the instrumental remix.
After all that, we can finally see what is hidden behind the long black curtains: the famous model of Plastic Beach, three metres high.
It is made of recyclable materials; all that is natural has disappeared from this world where the earth is pink, the trees orange and the grass a strange green. We can go around the model that can light up at night. We are then provided headphones with the MP3 album so that we can listen by strolling around the island.
The disc, consisting of sixteen tracks, opens with a symphonic intro. We remember that Damon has previously composed all the music of Chinese opera Monkey: Journey to the West. We then go to "Welcome to the world of the plastic beach" with Snoop Dogg and the Hypnotic Brass Ensemble of Chicago. Another rapper (English Kano) does the same with the National Orchestra for Arabic Music, on the following title, "White flag".
-Lou Reed and Bobby Womack
It is wholeheartedly in the musical world of Gorillaz, that of all crossings, all mixings. De La Soul returns with Gruff Rhys of Super Furry Animals in "Superfast jellyfish. Little Dragon, the Swedish electro-soul combo led by singer Yukimi Nagano, operates on two tracks, like Bobby Womack, the legendary soul out of forgetfulness or the rapper Mos Def. In addition to Lou Reed on the venomous "Some kind of nature, we also find Mark E. Smith of The Fall ( "Glitter freeze") and, on the eponymous track , Mick Jones and Paul Simonon, their first meeting since the separation of The Clash.
The album is full of strong titles, able to become singles. The trend is very pop and Albarn is very present. The synths are from the '80s but also from the seventies with a touch of "Popcorn" and bubble gum.
If Murdoc claims to have replaced Russel on the drums, 2D retains control over all stuffed like rap and symphonic beats of electro, soul and pop harmonies. "Broken" and "To Binge" are real pop lollipops.
The set is fragmented and coherent, dense and majestic, light and fresh. Gorillaz equals here its first two opus of legend. The only problem is that Murdoc announces it as the last in a triptych, and therefore, Gorillaz, and after that the announced tour, it's over. The loss would obviously be enormous, since Gorillaz managed to move all genres, all codes. Its success also comes from his unique way of communicating. Its website, which will be completely redone February 22, and which we were able see a preview, is organized as a video game. As was been the case with the first DVD of the group.
With his «Plastic Novo Band",Damon Albarn has become the most exciting creator of the past decade. His various projects (Blur, Mali Music, Africa Express, The Good The Bad & The Queen, numerous shots of thumb given to forgotten soul men ...) earned him to be frequently cited in the traditional balance of the 2000s.
With Plastic Beach, he goes even further in the analysis of a troubled world that, fortunately, he managed to cheer with his music.