Journey To The West

  • Record Label: XL
  • Release Date: Sep 23, 2008

Generally favorable reviews - based on 13 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 6 out of 13
  2. Negative: 0 out of 13
  1. You can go a fair distance without encountering a tune, which is less of a problem when there is something to look at. But even during the occasional longueurs, it's hard not to marvel at the ambition on display here, hard to think of anyone who would dare attempt something similar, and impossible to imagine someone else pulling it off with more aplomb.
  2. 80
    Monkey: Journey to the West is a testament to Albarn's versatility as a musician and his melodies' ability to avoid becoming losing their power in translation.
  3. The Wire
    While bound by established conventions, [it] is nonetheless rich and dazzling enough to soundtrack a saga that exists outside the bounds of normal human capabilities. [Oct 2008, p.60]
  4. The project still has the feel of an accompanying piece, with titles referencing the dramatization of the Chinese story and plenty of incidental music, but it also works on a satisfying level as an experimental work or as art-pop.
  5. Journey to the West is perhaps best experienced on-stage, as it was meant to be heard in tandem with Chen Shi-Zheng and Hewlett's visuals, but heard as its own work, it's hard not to admire, if not exactly embrace, Albarn's achievement here, as his work is not only ambitious, it is serious and understated, the work of a true composer.
  6. The big question: is it any good? Well, in places.
  7. Under The Radar
    Journey To The West begs to be paid attention to and listened to in one sitting, a remarkable feat for what would in lesser hands feel like a lessoon in culural history. [Fall 2008, p.77]
  8. Q Magazine
    Shorn of the stunning visuals, a little too much here sounds like aural padding. [Oct 2008, p.149]
  9. Mojo
    File under 'brilliantly out-there.' [Oct 2008, p.110]
  10. Uncut
    It probably made for a more interesting theatrical experience than it does standalone album, but if the form--expressive, exaggerated musical drama--is a bit unfamiliar, then Albarn's insidious tunes are not. [Oct 2008, p.101]
  11. Other pop fans are more likely to see through the emperor’s new clothes and call this for what it is: mostly weak but with a couple of monkey magic moments.
  12. Albarn’s thirst for musical adventure is commendable, but unless you’re obsessed with his every move or have been dreaming of the day a former Brit pop king fuses the sensibilities of Eastern opera and Western pop, Monkey just doesn’t warrant your full attention.
  13. I was so looking forward to hearing Monkey: Journey to the West, as I'd totally succumbed to its charm in the theatre, but I'd advise anyone approaching this CD to do so with caution, especially if you've not seen it in its glory in the theatre where it belongs.

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