They say that a sharp mind never sleeps. Such is the case for Damon Albarn, the former vocalist of Blur and now brain trust behind pop band Gorillaz. And, as Bob Seger says in “Turn the Page,” touring with a band makes for a lot of free time in between stops. Albarn’s solution was to compile “The Fall” during the group’s 2010 American tour, using only his iPad.
When he says “only” his iPad, I’m not sure how exclusively he means that, because it sounds awfully good from a recording perspective.
The result largely makes for good atmosphere music if nothing else. Many of the tracks (more so than a typical Gorillaz album, at least) are instrumental. Several of the tracks manage to capture the sensation of being on a nationwide tour, even without Albarn saying a word. Opener “Phoner to Arizona” sounds like the soundtrack to traveling by bus during the night and the instrumentals to “Revolving Doors” perfectly capture the mood of a hotel lobby.
Most of the remaining tracks map out a path across the country, with Albarn naming the tunes for where the band was when he thought of them. What songs such as “Detroit” and “Shy-Town” (Chicago) have to do with their namesakes is a mystery. Many of these songs serve as filler, but tracks such as “The Joplin Spider” (a frenetic M.I.A.-type affair) will break through the blah and get things rolling again.
There are few notable songs with vocal parts, but of those few, two stick out. “Amarillo” rests somewhere in the Plains (if you map it between the songs next to it, “The Snake in Dallas” and “The Speak It Mountains”) and finds Albarn in a wistful mood, unlike most Gorillaz fare. “Bobby in Phoenix” features bluesman Bobby Womack, a contributor to the band’s last album, taking the reins.
“The Fall” is certainly incomplete, in comparison to other Gorillaz work, but it provides an interesting perspective to life on the road, and is worth a listen.