As a Gorillaz fan and geeky member of Sub Division, the official Gorillaz fan club, I had the benefit of standing in line getting my coffee one morning and being pleasantly surprised to read via email that come Christmas day they were releasing a new album, The Fall… for free. My oh my, I could barely contain my excitement. I imagined perhaps some unused tracks and remixes from the Plastic Beach sessions… similar to what they did by releasing The G-Sides and The D-Sides. Figured this would be The P Sides. I can’t say I’m too big a fan of either the G or D-Sides, with one blissful exception… and that being Hong Kong. A beautiful song. Remixes can be good, but overall, not my bag. So what would The Fall offer?
For starters, this album was completely produced and recorded while touring North America this autumn (aka fall… get it… get it) as well as being done on an iPad. Every bit of this album was created using various applications and quite frankly, that’s exactly what it sounds like. There are moments that do stand out as being exceptionally better than the rest… Amarillo has that sleepy sound of crossing long stretches of flat land. Hillbilly Man opens with some nice guitar work and Albarn’s voice sounding quite lilting… however, it then goes into an electronic stretch leaving the more organic guitar behind in favor of a layered piece of something like an over fetishized Casio keyboard enthusiast would be jamming too… with just a hint of the dub found in spades on their first self titled album. My favorite song is the second, Revolving Doors. This is the one song that feels as if it were produced with a certain amount of care. It has what may be the strongest melody as well and the more appealing structure of any other song on the album.
The rest of the album seems to swing between slower pulsing electronic beats and the aforementioned Casio noodling. Little attention seems paid to actual listenability… although Bobby in Phoenix does showcase a more mellow Bobby Womack and is a welcome break from some of the more grating aspects of the album. Perhaps electronic music fans will get more out of the experience, but I will admit to being a fan of production. Yes, garage bands and Jack White have integrity… well done… but I don’t enjoy Gorillaz for their rough hewn take on the suffering of the blues and how it must escape from their grizzled souls through their gee-tars… I like the high production value. Strip that away, and you are left with The Fall. At times entertaining, but overall a bit of a dud.
In all fairness though, I have very often disliked an album at first only to have it grow on my later. Perhaps that will happen here. More than likely I won’t give it enough listens to allow it to grow… but will slip a couple of the tunes I mentioned into my playlist. Time will tell if I am happy when they pop up on shuffle, or will pass them over for something with a bit more thought behind it.
Cornelius J. Blahg