Crash Thursday: Gorillaz - The Fall
Genre: Alternative Hip-Hop/Alternative Rock
Origins: Essex, England
Here is the Gorillaz' fourth LP, The Fall, brought to you via the iPad. Yeah, the entirety of this album was mixed using programs on an Apple iPad while the band was out touring North America late last fall (to which I happily attended one of their performances). It really shows you how much technology has advanced, to the point that you can pretty much just set up shop on a portable drive without the necessary wires and plug-ins required to make effects work in music. Whether or not the content that Gorillaz mastermind Damon Albarn puts out on The Fall is of the band's standards, you have to admire the output of this album.
Then again, you really do have to consider the content of this album. In the end, isn't that what matter's most? There's no question that new technologies will be tried and tested and some will produce great results if the content suits it. Just as Avatar pulled the rug from under moviegoers in 3D cinemas, The Fall makes the jump to trend-set what it takes to make an album upon the artificiality that is a new tablet technology, but the content yields mixed results. More often than not, Damon Albarn finds himself making promising beats that ultimately lack depth and little lyrical content that makes it difficult to determine whom this album markets to.
This is the Gorillaz' last album since the rather immaculately-concepted and much-loved Plastic Beach, and that was only a year ago. If I recall a Gorillaz album was in the works every 4-5 years, and when that album landed it never failed to deliver pure imaginative goodness. It was a good feeling having that amount of anticipation, to which here it's kind of a loss. That isn't to say The Fall shouldn't be considered as such just because it's release was rather quick, but it impedes on the idea that such a conceptual design for an album takes time and evolvement, and Damon Albarn doesn't seem to fit the bill as much in a short timespan.
The songs themselves aren't actually that bad - that is, if there were really songs in structure. A majority of the tracks are early concept work at best, working their way a good two minutes until ending and fading out. In making the songs feel this short handed, I barely have the time to grasp any depth to any of Albarn's lyrics (if any, since some tracks remain as simple ambience). This isn't a case of "short, sweet, and to the point," mind you - this is a case of what feels like unfinished business. I can't comment on whether this is a result of the limitations that an iPad offers, but if this is what's expected from a tablet then I can't imagine rock records flying off shelves.
It takes outside strengths rather than inside to make it work, but The Fall does have its short moments. It still features a likable vibe throughout, instilling the synthy and electronic sounds found across the board on Plastic Beach and then some. The one song that even comes close to a good-natured Gorillaz tune is "Bobby in Phoenix" featuring the indelible Bobby Womack, who appeared on a couple standout tracks from Plastic Beach. Bobby sings with such enthusiasm compared to Albarn's consistent if ill-advised droning on the rest of the album, and introducing a stylistically played acoustic guitar that's an interesting mix.
I read a statement from the Gorillaz that said this is a "2D" album, which, if you're a fan, could make a lot of sense. If you are a Gorillaz fan, you might be either excited or disappointed by that prospect. The Fall is an experiment for Damon Albarn and his Gorillaz, and it's admirable for sure, if a little bit off-base. It may not be a fourth LP in a real sense, nor in the same vein as their trilogy of other trend-setting albums, which is a shame, but it shouldn't be completely lost in the mix. Just don't go into it expecting a full-fledged Gorillaz album and you'll have yourself an interesting sound experience. It's one big mix of things.
Gorillaz - "Bobby in Phoenix"
Gorillaz - "Detroit"
The Fall is now physically available in various formats from Parlophone.