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"The Fall"

Gorillaz – The Fall
15 April 2011, 15:11 Written by Katia Ganfield

Damon Albarn (you may have heard of him) has achieved a lot of things in his lifetime, whether it be turning British music on its head with Blur, or creating super commercial pop through his Jamie Hewlett created cartoon alter ego, Albarn certainly knows how to bring his thoughts to life. Gorillaz’ new album The Fall (out on Monday) took a completely untraditional approach, with the listener having to dig deep to hear echoes of Plastic Beach’s wonderful and vastly produced sound through this home-made sounding installation. Creeping synths, ambient textures and sonic cries are the sounds stuck in your head for days after hearing the record, with Gorillaz official twitter describing it as “if Plastic Beach was an island, The Fall is it’s jetty…just a nice bit of…er…wood sticking out the side.”

As a surprise to the fans in their Sub–Division fan club that pay a generous £29.99 subscription each year, Gorillaz released The Fall for exclusive free download. Recorded on an iPad over 32 days as they travelled between Montreal and Vancouver on their Plastic Beach tour, the sense of travelling from place to place on buses and planes has largely impacted the 15 songs where this sense of perpetual motion is created and conveyed via a myriad of caffeine-driven sounds. Albarn’s reasoning behind it was “because there’s a lot of time that you just spend staring at walls, essentially. And it was a fantastic way of doing it. I found working in the day, whether it’s in the hotel or in the venue, was a brilliant way of keeping myself well.”

The fact that it was recorded on an iPad invites the immediate presumption that this album would be completely different to their previous three, and featuring far less ‘outsiders’. The sad thing, or perhaps greatest thing, is that it clearly shows. It’s more like a group of mates who are in a band getting together over drinks and playing around on the iPad because there’s nothing better to do – and they’ve run out of groupies to entertain. With the initial listen, the songs appear to be without any meaning, and the iPad generated beats cloud the album’s sincerity. Having said that, there’s something perplexingly beautiful about the record, especially when additional instruments are slotted in like Mick Jones’ guitar on ‘Hillbilly Man’. Through bluesy-laments from Bobby Womack on ‘Bobby In Phoenix’ coupled with guitar and Paul Simonon’s addition on bass, the blips and beeps that evocate from the iPad show that perhaps these computerised instruments can output emotions and feelings just as well as human vocals and lyrics can. Its’ experimental nature and unique qualities strengthen the album’s offerings, and is a reason to why it shouldn’t be quite easily dismissed as the band’s ‘side-project’.

Opening track ‘Phoner to Arizona’s synth ridden instrumental piques to ‘Revolving Doors’ emitting doses of ukulele and lilting vocals from Albern as he reflects on “What will I become”. Minimalist guitars come and go, mellow reverberations clouding the listener’s psyche. Sonic chaos and crashes continue, most notable in ‘The Joplin Spider’. This all makes The Fall an intriguing listen as it experiments with construction and composition and is something to be attributed with Albarn who confirms that “each album got all of us on it somewhere, but each time it’s…more of one of us than the others…. Well, that’s how I see it anyway.” Now the focus is placed on him, and thank bloody fuck for that, he deserves it.

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