Damon Albarn wrote the entirety of ‘The Fall’ whilst touring Escape From Plastic Beach. Bands writing on the road isn’t that uncommon nowadays, but the difference here unlike the majority of others bands doing the same thing is that Albarn wrote the whole album on his iPad. Maybe Albarn was just trying to push the boundaries about what can be done musically now, writing everything on the iPad is a new way of approaching music for a start, and Damon Albarn has always tried to push things forwards with his Gorillaz project. Unfortunately when you go from an album as grand as ‘Plastic Beach’ to an album as bland as ‘The Fall’ maybe writing with a band seems like a better plan.
Starting off with the single ‘Phoner To Arizona’, the album jerks into life with a pulsating electro beat underneath Albarn‘s vocals and synth melody. The first song doesn’t get you hooked in a way that opening tracks of albums are supposed to do, instead it hypnotizes you with the repetition of the bass line and the looping synth. While the first song shows a lot of promise, the rest of the album fails to deliver as a record. Having one song doing the ‘bass loop and synth melody’ is alright, but to try and replicate it for nearly 15 tracks just stretches it a bit too far.
Unfortunately for Damon, he has written a solid album in an innovative fashion, but it just lacks the tunes and the catchiness of previous albums he’s written. Where he has succeeded in the past is writing songs that you struggle to get out of your head, regardless of how hard you try. Just a quick look into the Gorillaz back catalogue and you have hits such as ‘Clint Eastwood’, ‘Dare’ or ‘Feel Good Inc.’.
‘Bobby In Phoenix’ offers up something a bit different, with slide guitars entering the mix beautifully to break things up from the electro sounds of the rest of the record. Bobby Womack provides some soulful vocals that perfectly suit the melodic backing. It’s on this track that the album achieves what it’s set out to do; melodic ambience with a smooth vocal line over the top.
What this album lacks in comparison to ‘Plastic Beach’ is the influence of the guests that were brought in. The wide range of guests from Snoop Dogg to Mick Jone and Paul Simonon of The Clash all the way to the Lebanese National Orchestra for Oriental Arabic Music. These influences provided a bit of variety that made the album stand out. Damon Albarn has definitely pushed things forwards in the way that music can be written, but with ‘The Fall’ he’s tried to do too much and reduced some of the songs to background music. If he had left it as an EP, it would have made much more sense.
All in all, ‘The Fall’ will be appreciated by die-hard fans of Gorillaz, but to new or relatively fresh listeners it will bypass them. A good effort, but far from the best with what we know Damon Albarn can achieve.
Written by Josh Peett