After three mainstream and successful albums from Gorillaz, their next felt like a side-project within a side-project. The Fall was released exclusively online on Christmas Day 2010 (physically in April 2011), and was coined as the World’s First iPad Album, with The Fall being mixed entirely on the Apple device during the Gorillaz North American tour of that period.
As such, we get a more experimental, rather more low-key sound from the band, something that stands out within their releases and something not as easily accessible for the “casual” listener.
The album contains only one main feature, Bobby Womack on Bobby in Phoenix, who sounds almost unrecognisable from his Stylo contribution from Plastic Beach, with the songs country theme not quite matching with the emotional vocals from Womack on what is essentially a love song to his hometown.
The song titles are frequently named after places within the US, giving this album the overall feel of the tour album it essentially is. The music itself is not particularly what you would be putting on for a long drive, but this is an album in which a central theme is not particularly important.
After the alien-sounding intro Phoner to Arizona, with its warped and near-impossible to decipher lyrics, you get into two of the better tracks on The Fall, Revolving Doors and Hillbilly Man, with the latter for me being the best song on the entire album, and perhaps more deserving of a place on a more widely-released album.
Where Revolving Doors is a moody yet engaging effort on the subject of feeling a long way from home, Hillbilly Man is a (for the second half at least) really gritty and hardcore effort for a band like Gorillaz, with the sore vocals from Albarn only adding to that feeling.
Detroit is one of the better produced songs on the album, when you consider the albums origins. It almost has a pop feel to it with its bubbly instrumentals in the background, that somehow find parallel with the more spaced out beats that are more atypical of the album.
Another song that I feel deserves more credit is Little Pink Plastic Bags. It has more attention to detail than most of the other songs on the LP, with a more cinematic feel to the song that manages to be one of the more layered songs across any Gorillaz album ever. Albarn managed to sound both rather hushed and rather catchy at the same time, which is not an easy achievement.
The problem with The Fall, however, is it can’t seem to produce a bad song. It only seems capable of having really bad songs within its 43 minutes, with songs ranging from the highly annoying Shy-Town and The Parish of Space Dust, to the frankly awful The Joplin Spider and The Speak It Mountains. These songs rank as some of the worst Albarn has released anywhere, ever, but nothing compares to quite honestly insulting closing track Seattle Yodel, which is 39 seconds of not even good yodelling. I don’t know if it was meant to be funny, but it leaves the entire album with an undeserving sour taste when you hear that last.
Although enjoyable, the near-dubstep feel on The Snake In Dallas feels out of place, even on a record as experimental as this. It’s relatively short length and lack of vocals don’t exactly help it to stick in the mind either.
From 2D’s point of view, the third single on The Fall, Amarillo, is one of the more introspective songs from a lyrical standpoint across any Gorillaz album. While from a first listen it may not sound all that emotional, lyrics such as “Forgive me for what I’ve become” and “Put a little love into my/Lonely soul” play in perfectly with the overall depressive nature of the song.
California and the Slipping of the Sun is much more deserving closing track than Seattle Yodel, and I would implore you to stop the album there should you listen to it in full. The computerised vocals towards the end of the track only add to that feeling, as it feels like the album is itself unravelling to a conclusion within this one track.
The Fall will never be looked back on as a classic Gorillaz album in anybody’s eyes. I imagine for a lot of people they are unaware of its existence. While it does seem unfair to pitch it against the studio album counterparts Gorillaz, Demon Days & Plastic Beach, this is not to say that The Fall doesn’t do a decent job of providing that little bit extra for Gorillaz fans. It doesn’t do amazingly well at being different, the songs that stray further from the usual Gorillaz type will attest to that, but it is, considering the origins of the LP, an album that deserves your attention at the very least.