Damon Albarn is having an exceptional year. After dropping the critically acclaimed Plastic Beach and taking his cartoon band on their first nation wide tour of the US, the brains behind The Gorillaz wraped up 2010 with a hand made Christmas present for his devoted fans.The Fall was truly hand made. While crisscrossing the country on a bus during this summer’s Plastic Beach tour, the former Blur front man crafted this release solely on his iPad. Compared to the past two Gorillaz records, Demon Days and Plastic Beach, each which fabricated their own unique musical sandbox to play in; The Fall’s sound is grounded in the real world that Damon & Co were traveling through. Considering the entire Gorillaz catalog, The Fall can best be compared to their self-titled debut, Gorillaz, with its similarly stark, melancholic and digital sound.
Unfortunately, this record is also the Gorillaz’s least fully realized project. Many tracks, like the oddly funky “Hillybilly Man,” felt like an incomplete sketch of a song. Others, like the superb opener “Phoner To Arizona,” is nothing more than an interlude that would be a filler on a proper Gorillaz album. Also missing are the ubiquitous guest rappers who Damon often employs to fill in the blanks. Tourmate Bobby Womack contributes the sweet micro-ballad “Bobby In Phoenix,” the only song that features vocals other than Damon’s. Mick Jones and Paul Simon make brief appearances on a track each, but the rest of this album is Damon’s handiwork. Packaged together here, The Fall does not feel like a proper Gorillaz album, but more like a musical scrapbook of the tour. Fortunately for us, even Damon’s scraps are worthy of a casual listen.