The Fall is a bit of a departure for the Gorillaz. It lacks guest musicians, which, among other things, have come to define them over the years. Instead, the album offers up an experimental collection of mostly sparse, electronic pop songs. Part of the reason for the lack of guest musicians is the recording method used on the album. The entire album was recorded in about a month, on an Apple iPad, while the band was on tour in the fall of 2010. Though the recording process sounds slightly gimmicky, the end result is quite good. Resulting, undoubtedly, from the recording techniques, The Fall feels almost like a home-recorded album, though this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It is definitely mixed much better than most home recorded music, but it ultimately feels like one person sitting in front of a computer, or in this case an iPad, tinkering around.
For anyone who didn’t already know, the iPad has some pretty good apps for musicians. This album, if nothing else, proves the iPad is a legitimate tool in a musician’s repertoire. Many will probably use the device sparingly, but it is commendable that the Gorillaz used the iPad almost exclusively. In many ways, this album feels like a solo outing from vocalist and multi-instrumentalist, Damon Albarn. His fictional alter ego, 2D, seems to agree the album is mainly a one-person affair.
He writes on their website: “This one, The Fall, is mostly just me... something more gentle and just... well... it's just me and an iPad really mucking about... trying out some stuff. Just looking at America and then tapping on the screen... I'm not really concentrating too hard on it.... So, right, each album got all of us on it somewhere, but each time it's... more of one of us than the others... Well, that's how I see it anyway.”
Even if Albarn (or rather 2D) is just “mucking about,” his mucking is certainly strong and more interesting than a lot of music going on today. And it doesn’t really matter whether or not the other members played a significant or minimal role in the album. One of the benefits of being a “virtual” band is that the actual people in the group don’t always have to be present.
“Well, this is curious.... I don't remember recording this one at all. A whole album... and nothing. But it's got the Gorillaz name on it so I must have done it!” fictional bassist Murdoc playfully claims about the album.
Fans of Blur were thrown for a loop when Albarn started the Gorillaz. Now, fans of the Gorillaz are being thrown a similar curveball with The Fall. For anyone willing to give the album a listen, it represents a different sound for Albarn, and definitely warrants multiple listens. Always present in Albarn’s many projects is an infectious knack for melody. Listeners able to accept the Gorillaz’ experiment with modern technology (though it uses apps that mimic instruments from the 1960s and beyond) will realize this album is deserving of the Gorillaz moniker, even if it leaves something to be desired by many fans of the group’s earlier work.
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