Unbeknownst to the public and most of their fans, a new Gorillaz album has arrived! Hooray! Damon Albarn’s merry band of anonymous musicians is foolproof, right? Well, sort of. Gorillaz have built their name on dub-steeped (yes steeped) electronic beats and a finely-honed ear for pop songwriting, little to none of which shows up here: The Fall sees Gorillaz apparently playing away from their strengths.
The Fall was recorded over 32 days while touring between Montreal and Vancouver and was crafted entirely via iPad, with an extensive suite of apps, on a bus. While the novelty is exciting, the shine quickly wears off: when Bobby Womack ad-libbed his feature on “Stylo”, it was enthusiastic and awesome. When Damon Albarn paints his travel-worn loneliness and feelings of alienation over the blurred countryside for 43 minutes of expansive electronica, the improvisations turn out significantly more tepid. Frankly, they’re a little boring: this is music that was composed on a bus, while bored, and it sounds like it. Make no mistake, however, this is the Gorillaz we know, complete with 2D’s jaded musings (“Revolving Doors”), but it sounds tired. Their signature home-run guest spots are reduced to Womack’s return in “Bobby in Pheonix” and the rest is mostly instrumental and strangely barren, despite some starkly beautiful moments (likely the album’s overall intention). On The Fall Damon Albarn has certainly captured the exhaustion and monotony of the North-American road trip, but was that experience ever enjoyable?
Originally published in The Peak, January 2011.
Yes, it actually is that boring. I urge you not to test it. There is stark beauty, as in Boards of Canada, and then there is staring-out-the-window-because-you-are-bored monotony. This is the latter.