Gorillaz, "Plastic Beach"

4.5

Gorillaz may have originated as a way for Damon Albarn to sidestep the limelight, but on the cartoon group's third album, "Plastic Beach," he very much takes center stage. Self-producing for the first time, Albarn also sings more than on previous Gorillaz releases, despite an embarrassment of riches on the collaboration front. And, indeed, while contributions from the likes of Snoop Dogg and Lou Reed initially catch the eye, it's Albarn's musical vision that holds the project together. While Snoop's laconic swagger through the G-funk of "Welcome to the World of the Plastic Beach" is a world away from the Goldfrapp-esque stomp of Mark E. Smith's "Glitter Freeze" or the Arabian-tinged "White Flag" (featuring U.K. grime stars Kano and Bashy), what emerges is a truly coherent, if highly eclectic, album. More than happy to engage the pop mainstream (once heard, the irresistible, day-glo chorus of "Superfast Jellyfish" is never forgotten), yet experimental enough to satisfy the hipsters, these cartoon characters just made the first 3-D album of the new decade.