Gorillaz frontman Damon Albarn has had his hands full for quite some time, following the release of the successful Plastic Beach. It is between touring, writing the next Gorillaz, and making sure the Gorillaz gang is staying out of trouble and giving us the updates via the virtual Gorrilaz world thorugh their website, where he releases his next collection of Gorillaz tunes - The Fall
Without the budget of a full-length, nor the production crew of one, most if not all the songs on The Fall are Albarn centric tunes, though their not as tame as one might assume. Written while on the road, it is a side-story of an album of sorts, and not necessarily the proper follow-up to Plastic Beach. Gone are the big, anthemic, hits Gorillaz are known for, starstudded to the brim with guest appearances. In return, it's a stylish carnival of colors and vistas. One can't mistake this for a Damon Albarn album, which if he had a solo project, could easily fit in. With it's breezy guitars on Revolving Doors, hearken 90's UK alternative, which Albarn met great success fronting Blur, and nonchalantly sits in the back of the production, which one can't deny the hip Gorillaz vibe. Other obvious elements are the inclusion of a hip-hop flavored number, Albarn's signature vocal delivery, and the surprise of a guest appearance.
Considering these factors, it's easy to count this as a new Gorillaz record. Not quite a follow-up, so we'll wait for that, but it's a fully realized record no less. The tracks are confident, and work great as a whole. This cannot be said for releases in the past. G-Sides and Laika Come Home were remixes, albeit great ones. D-Sides changed the pace with the inclusion of real B-Sides being the main focus, which some were stronger than what made the cut on Demon Days, however still didn't capture the album feel as The Fall. This record just has their Gorillaz record swagger with the Plastic Beach's beauty and substance on max for you not to call it a B-Sides fest.
With Damon Albarn being in the spotlight, one can expect gorgeous tunes like Stop The Dams, Empire Ants, and Rhinestone Eyes, and fun tunes like Sweepstakes and Glitter Freeze, but less grandiose. Despite this, Albarn fills the missing pieces with thought-provoking lyrics and intimate music environments, so who needs hooks?
"What's with the carnival," you may ask.
"Revolving doors, what have I done," 2-D's first words to open up. The air is mysterious, lonesome, and bites like a confession. We're listening to The Beatles in a diner, but it's a contrast to the song before. When we reach The Parish of Space Dust, 2-D is amidst lush melodies, and he lays lyrics that read more like pure poetry. And what follows is a upbeat dancy number. Almost every song contrasts from one another, from subject matter, mood, and pace. Dub and oriental vibes on Aspen Forest, and minimalist psychedelia with lambent 2-D musings on Amarillo. It's a rollercoaster in 2-D's twisted laboratory.
It's one of his most eclectic offerings, even after considering the past albums. I am more than happy with it. It definitely has the play value of a real record, which is incentive enough for me to wait for the next real Gorillaz album, since he's never released anything like this in between records. It's quite a gift.
Albarn picks up the pieces, delivers, sends us to busy streets, outer space, and a manic yodeler. It rises, it falls.
=== Album Notes ===
Title: The Fall
Track Number: 15
Run Time: 43:21
Released: December 25, 2010
Position in Chronology: 4 (sorta)
Preceded By: Plastic Beach
Succeeded By: N/A
Misc. Notes: Recorded and written on the road, notably with iPad apps.
Recommended Tracks: California & the Slipping of the Sun, HillBilly Man, The Snake In Dallas, Bobby In Phoenix