Review Summary: A quick review of the new Gorillaz album, "The Fall", recorded quick exclusively on an iPad.
A quick response after this year's "Plastic Beach", Damon Albarn(mastermind of Gorillaz) went on to create "The Fall", based entirely on iPad apps, with little to no real instruments added. The record was created as a diary to the band's North American tour - hence the track titles "Detroit", "Phoner To Arizona", "Bobby In Phoenix" - and it was finished very fast, with no post-recording studio work on it. It is still heavy on synths like "Plastic Beach", but the songs are stripped of the many layers of instruments or orchestras. Overall "The Fall" is a more immediate album, still an eclectic mix of sounds, this time similar to some tracks on their eponymous album.
There are many instrumentals on this record, each very different, ranging from the bass heavy "Phoner To Arizona", which reminds of the D-Sides opener "68 State" (not the best first impression over the new record), to the unfortunately short, but fun disco "Detroit". There is also a short, WTF moment on "Seattle Yodel".
Some darker instrumentals are to be found on the album, like the eerie synths on "Little Plastic Bags" and the Moby-like ambient loops of "The Snake In Dallas". These short pieces of music are not bad, but they could have been extended and added some vocals because they sound empty most of the times.
Luckily, there are some sung tracks that immediately make the difference on the record. The highlights are "Amarillo", with some lovely, mournful vocals and a sparse piano lead that create a great, haunting vibe on the song and "HillBilly Man" which begins with Albarn singing over a lonely, bluesy acoustic guitar riff, before exploding into a big, lazy hip hop beat with MCs and a "Doncamatic"-like accordion loop.
There are some other good tracks like "Bobby In Phoenix", which is an almost-country number filled with Bobby Womack's soulful vocals, but it doesn't quite match the beauty and the unique vibe of "Cloud Of Unknowing".
"The Fall" features some missed tracks because of their short length, the biggest flaw here, mostly visible on "Detroit" and "The Parish Of Space Dust" which ends before it even builds up. It could've been an amazing track because after a "I need a small vacation" radio-switching intro, begins a beautiful 50's movies-like orchestra with Damon and some background vocalists singing over, but after a few verses the song just ends..
Albarn said "If I left it until the New Year to release it, then the cynics out there would say, 'Oh well, it's been tampered with.' But if I put it out now, they'd know that I haven't done anything because I've been on tour ever since." This fear of avoiding arguments that the songs have been treated outside the iPad, pulls "The Fall" down: they are half finished, many having no vocals and being too short. This only makes it feel like a P-Sides with many influences of "Plastic Beach" found on it. There was no rush in releasing it, Damon could have spent some more time, even on his iPad not a studio, to finish the songs properly.
Aside from that major flaw,"The Fall" is an interesting experiment of how much you can do with less and rely exclusively on technology, it only pushes further the boundaries Gorillaz set with "Plastic Beach" this year. Now you can expect just about anything from Damon.
Highlights - "Amarillo", "HillBilly Man", "The Parish Of Space Dust", "Detroit"