Gorillaz – The Fall
Not too long ago, it was reasonable to believe that Gorillaz were done forever following the release of 2005’s Demon Days. Damon Albarn seemed to have moved on to his various side projects and Blur’s reunion, and artist Jamie Hewlett said he became bored with drawing the band’s characters. Then, of course, the duo released Plastic Beach, an album that turned the idea of Gorillaz into less of a virtual band and more of a collaboration of artists all organized by Albarn and Hewlett. But without warning in late 2010, the group that once took infamously long between releases became prolific as Albarn announced The Fall (named for the season it was recorded in) to be released on the group’s website on Christmas Day. Recorded and mixed on an iPad during the American leg of the Plastic Beach tour, The Fall continues the shift in focus to the musicians themselves, with no real accompanying animated story to its release. It doesn’t matter that a wide-eyed 2D is recording in a hotel room on the cover; no one’s hiding that it is really Damon Albarn sitting there anymore.
But while the album was recorded while performing Plastic Beach material, it could not sound further from that album. Gorillaz have instead released a largely instrumental electronica album, one that still takes cues from left-field hip-hop and trip hop but veers towards different styles of contemporary dance music. It’s the most moody and atmospheric portions of past Gorillaz records extended to album length. In short, other than the tracks where Albarn sings (and even sometimes on those), this hardly seems like a Gorillaz album at all, and the only real collaborations here are a vocal from Bobby Womack and some guitar and bass work from The Clash’s Mick Jones and Paul Simonon who were touring with the band anyway. Like many albums written on tour, The Fall takes influence from the cities the group performed and the act of travel itself. Songs are primarily named after the place where they were recorded and lyrics (when they appear) are often images of moving. Compared to other Gorillaz albums, it’s a bit thin sounding—to be expected considering it was made mostly with iPad apps—which makes it a bit slight and unmemorable at times, especially considering the album is almost entirely production work. The Fall may be Albarn and co.’s least accomplished yet, but a lot of people won’t really consider this a “real” Gorillaz record anyway. It’s mainly a little experiment carried out by people who have a lot of fun making music, something that is more than welcome in the band’s catalog.