Album review: Gorillaz, “The Fall” (Virgin)

April 25, 2011

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Most of the reviews of the fourth—and perhaps final—album from erstwhile Blur front man Damon Albarn’s mixed-media side project Gorillaz have focused on the fact that it was crafted largely on his iPad as he crossed the United States on the animated simians’ last big tour. But the distinguishing factor of this set is less its technological origins and more its relatively small and intimate scope: The guest appearances are kept to a bare minimum and are basically holdovers from the group’s last big concept effort, “Plastic Beach” (2010)—among them a vocal contribution from Bobby Womack, a visit from former Clash legends Paul Simonon and Mick Jones—and what Albarn really is offering here is a look at his aural sketchpad in a posh but nonetheless lonely and alienating hotel room in the wee hours of the night.

Think of it as the musical auteur’s version of “Lost in Translation”

We’re in the midst of a remarkable stretch for these kinds of “little” albums—see also: “The King of Limbs” by Radiohead and “Nine Types of Light” by TV on the Radio—and if “The Fall” (named for one of Albarn’s favorite post-punk bands, as well as the vibe and perhaps the end of Gorillaz) isn’t quite as good as either of those two collections, the playful, Eno-esque synth and vocal experiments of tracks such as “Seattle Yodel,” “The Joplin Spider,” “Revolving Doors,” and “The Snake in Dallas” are nonetheless rewarding,  whether you’re a fan of ambient/electronic pop music, or a dedicated follower of Albarn in all his many guises (and “The Fall” was originally a fans-only Internet release, only getting its official issuance last week).

On the four-star scale: 3 STARS

STILL IN HEAVY ROTATION

The Feelies, “Here Before” (Bar None)

TV on the Radio, “Nine Types of Light” (Interscope)

Lykke Li, “Wounded Rhymes” (Atlantic)

Screeching Weasel, “First World Manifesto” (Fat Wreck Chords)

Lupe Fiasco, “Lasers” (Atlantic)

Lucinda Williams, “Blessed” (Lost Highway)

Radiohead, “The King of Limbs” (self-released)

Drive-By Truckers, “Go-Go Boots” (ATO)

North Mississippi Allstars, “Keys to the Kingdom” (Songs of the South)

Smith Westerns, “Dye It Blonde” (Fat Possum)

The Decemberists, “The King Is Dead” (Capitol)