Plastic Beach is the third album by Gorillaz, released in 2010. It marks Phase 3 of the band's history.
Originally a non-Gorillaz project known as Carousel, the final product evolved into a Gorillaz Concept Album inspired by plastic trash and pollution in the ocean. As per the Gorillaz trademark it is a New Sound Album, this time with more of a pop influence alongside the usual Genre Roulette.
In-universe, after Kong Studios burnt down at the end of the previous phase, Murdoc took up residence in Point Nemo, the titular Plastic Beach. He had 2D kidnapped to provide vocals for the new album, and replaced Noodle with a cyborg clone after her presumed death. He's also being pursued by a group of pirates known as the Black Clouds, and an evil entity called the Boogieman wants his soul. Unbeknownst to Murdoc, however, Noodle is actually alive; she'd been dragged to Hell by demons and managed to escape. Reuniting with a now-gigantic Russel, they head for Plastic Beach...
While the album itself was released to critical and commercial success, the period shortly thereafter proved to be a tumultuous one for Gorillaz as a whole. While Phase 3 was built up as being the project's most ambitious arc, it was abruptly Cut Short, most often attributed to a combination of a ballooning budget, Creative Differences between Damon Albarn and Jamie Hewlett, and a lack of faith from their label. As a result, the story was left incomplete, and following a larger collaborative spat between creators, the album was the last major Gorillaz album (aside from a modest release of The Fall the following year) before the group took a long hiatus, not reuniting until 2017 and the release of Humanz.
Preceded by Demon Days. Followed by The Fall.
- "Orchestral Intro" (1:09)
- "Welcome to the World of the Plastic Beach" (3:35)
- "White Flag" (3:42)
- "Rhinestone Eyes" (3:19)
- "Stylo" (4:29)
- "Superfast Jellyfish" (2:54)
- "Empire Ants" (4:43)
- "Glitter Freeze" (4:02)
- "Some Kind of Nature" (2:59)
- "On Melancholy Hill" (3:53)
- "Broken" (3:16)
- "Sweepstakes" (5:19)
- "Plastic Beach" (3:46)
- "To Binge" (3:55)
- "Cloud of Unknowing" (3:05)
- "Pirate Jet" (2:32)
Welcome to the World of the Plastic Tropes:
- Auto-Tune: It seems to have been used for the backing vocals of "Broken". They're heavily layered and pushed back into the mix behind the lead (non-autotuned) vocals, though, so it's hard to tell.
- Bittersweet Ending: "Pirate Jet" is widely interpreted to be a laid-back ode celebrating... the continual degradation of the environment, seemingly accepting that while the world may still live on, so will Plastic Beach, for better and for worse.
- Car Hood Sliding: The donut-obsessed cop in "Stylo" attempts to do this on his own car, but fails the slide due to his obesity.
- Cerebus Syndrome: Phase 2 already started the band down this path (with songs featuring darker and more topical subject matter, recurring satanic/demonic imagery, and Noodle's alleged death in the "El Mañana" video), but Phase 3 took it further. Russel made a suicide attempt before becoming giant, Noodle escapes from Hell as a fully grown Broken Bird with bruises on her face (hidden by her mask), Murdoc grapples with an ancient force of evil trying to take his soul alongside pirates trying to kill him, and 2D's mental state hits an all-time low as his resentment of Murdoc reaches an all-time high.
- Cool Mask:
- Noodle has one stylized to resemble both a cat's face and a butterfly, complete with cat-like ears.
- 2D has a clown-like mask in the videos for "Stylo", "On Melancholy Hill" and "Rhinestone Eyes." According to him, he uses it to hide the fact that he's massively hungover in most of the videos.
- Cut Short: Phase 3 was supposed to be a trilogy of albums with an epic plot featuring the apocalypse. Only Plastic Beach was released and the plot never really ended up going anywhere as a result.
- Donut Mess with a Cop: An incompetent cop shows up in the "Stylo" video, and naturally he has coffee and a box of donuts. He's even overtaken by the Boogieman while reaching for them.
- Early-Bird Cameo: The "Superfast Jellyfish" logo appears on a billboard in the video for "Stylo".
- Enemy Mine: Implied in the lyrics to "Rhinestone Eyes":This dawn brings strange loyalties, and skies.
- Fading into the Next Song: One of the wailing synths that ends "Superfast Jellyfish" segues into the very start of "Empire Ants".
- Flat "What": De La Soul give this response to a sample of David Attenborough saying "The sea has gone silent" on "Superfast Jellyfish".
- Idiosyncratic Cover Art: There's four main versions of the cover art: the standard edition features the island at sunrise, the vinyl edition at noon, the iTunes deluxe edition at dusk, and the Experience edition at night. The latter two versions also reverse the view of the island and the position of the text.
- Last Note Nightmare: "On Melancholy Hill" ends with an eerie bell chime.
- Let's Meet the Meat: The jellyfishes' gormlessly happy expressions in the "Superfast Jellyfish" video give a distinct impression of this. Even more disturbingly, they still appear to be alive and sentient even after being microwaved and therefore appear to have been eaten alive.
- Lighter and Softer: Unlike the narrative, the album has an overall lighter and poppier sound than its predecessor.
- Lyrical Dissonance:
- "Superfast Jellyfish"; it's a happy, bouncy tune while its lyrics are about how we're overfishing till the point there is nothing living left in the sea. It could also be seen as a metaphor for the modern music industry, with people demanding entertainment "just in time for breakfast" and disregarding quality. Depending on how you interpret it, "Superfast Jellyfish" is either an environmentalist ballad or a scathing criticism of pop culture. Either way, it's pretty eerie.
- "To Binge" seems like a happy, beachy song, but is actually a pretty heartbreaking song about being in love with a drug addict. Once you find this out, listening to it is suddenly much more depressing.
- Meaningless Meaningful Words:
I'm a scary gargoyle on a tower
- All over the place in "Rhinestone Eyes."
That you made with plastic power
Your Rhinestone Eyes are like, factories far away
With the paralytic dreams that we all seem to keep
Drive on engines till they weep with
Future pixels in factories far away.
Oh, Stylo (juice)
- "Stylo" is chock full of these as well, likely due to the fact that 2-D isn't exactly in a great state of mind as he's singing it.
Go for blossom in your soul
When you know your heart is light
Electric is the love
When the mako flies (it's the giant fish)
Up from the bottom in your eyes (as it leaps from the stream)
Then I'll know the twilight skies (blood curdles, it's a death throw)
Are not so broken hearted (hot from the end of the line)
- Medium Blending:
- The music video for "Stylo" is almost entirely live-action with just three of the Gorillaz in quasi-realistic 3D (and Bruce Willis as the antagonist).
- "On Melancholy Hill" returns the characters to 2D (save for Cyborg-Noodle who stays CG-rendered, to keep her apart from the real Noodle) amongst plenty 3D vehicles, creatures and backgrounds.
- New Sound Album: featured an even more eclectic variety of genres and sounds, as well as one of the most clear-cut album concepts surrounding the titular tropical trash heap. It also featured an even wider array of featured artists, firmly cementing Gorillaz' status as a massive collaborative project among its fans.
- Non-Appearing Title: "Empire Ants" and "To Binge".
- Sampling: An interesting example as the sample in question doesn't come from a song. The clip heard at the beginning of "Superfast Jellyfish" (along with the sound bite of a man going "Are you kidding?") comes from an old 1980s commercial for "Swanson Great Start Frozen Breakfast Sandwiches", which can be seen here.
- Sanity Slippage Song: "Stylo" certainly qualifies as one of these, considering that it mostly consists of Meaningless Meaningful Words and a chorus that consists of nothing but "overload, overload, overload, coming up to the overload" repeated over and over again. Considering that this is the song that takes place in the direct aftermath of 2-D's kidnapping by Murdoc, his forced exposure to both him and the cybernetic replica of his seemingly-dead bandmate/surrogate little sister, and that within the song itself he's just had to witness both said cybernetic replica shooting a cop off the freeway, and Murdoc managing to land the both of them in a car chase with Bruce Willis, having a bit of a breakdown is a rather understandable reaction.
- Special Guest: There's guests through the majority of the album, including various rappers and indie artists.
- Tastes Like Chicken: Superfast Jellyfish, allegedly.
- Title Track: "Plastic Beach".