It's been five years since Gorillaz's last release, but 'Plastic Beach' was well worth the wait. The 'virtual band', which was the brainchild of Blur's Damon Albarn and illustrator Jamie Hewlett, have become famed for straddling musical genres and boasting an impressive line-up of unlikely guest contributors, and this is no exception.
Albarn said that this would be Gorillaz's most poppy record to date, and although this may not be technically true due to a lack of standout singles, this eclectic offering is sure to win over listeners.
After a somewhat superfluous orchestral opening, the album kicks off with 'Welcome to the World of Plastic Beach', featuring an exceptionally laidback Snoop Dogg cameo, even by Snoop's standards, with the excellent Hypnotic Brass Ensemble providing instrumentation.
Next up is one of the album's highlights, 'White Flag', featuring grime artists Kano and Bashy. Strings that sound like they were taken straight from a Bollywood soundtrack are layered over 80s keyboards and sharp rapping, to unusual and pleasing effect.
Lou Reed's contribution on 'Some Kind of Nature' works particularly well. His almost atonal delivery complements the upbeat, melodic backing. Albarn lends his vocals to a few songs on the album, most notably on the track 'On Melancholy Hill', a gorgeously fuzzy, melodic song that provides a beautiful respite from the more frenzied tracks.
The first single to be released from the album, 'Stylo', is a 70s electro-funk featuring mellow rapping from Mos Def and an emotional turn from soul singer Bobby Womack. 'Superfast Jellyfish', featuring Super Furry Animals' Gruff Rhys and De La Soul, is just pure brilliance. It may sound like an unlikely combination but it just works, and is bouncingly uplifting.
As is the nature with albums as diverse as this in style and contributors, 'Plastic Beach' can be patchy in parts ('Glitter Freeze' is particularly annoying), but the sheer versatility and depth of Albarn & co's sprawling work are its saviours.