Album: Gorillaz, The Fall (Gorillaz.com)
Friday 07 January 2011
It would be churlish to expect a considered album in the vein of Demon Days or Plastic Beach, and so Damon Albarn hasn't even attempted anything so polished or thought-through here.
Indeed, given the gruelling everyday logistics of an American tour, it's outrageous to even consider recording an album of new material on the spot as a kind of audio diary, one track to each town, from Montreal and the Eastern seaboard through the midwest to Texas and over to the West Coast. When, one wonders, did he sleep?
It's a typically cutting-edge endeavour, recorded on an iPad with a core instrumental armoury of keyboards, omnichord, ukulele and guitar, and a slew of apps whose names – SoundyThingy, iOrgel HD, Dub Siren Pro, etc – give few clues to their effects. As you'd expect, it relies heavily on programmed beats of spare simplicity, and layered dubstep synth riffs over which Albarn sketches his impressions of life on the road, be they as mundane as "little pink plastic bags blowing down the highway", or as poetic as "the pinks and blues of Houston in the sun... where home is a bus, the parish of space dust, and today is golden".
The album sidles sideways into earshot with the simple electro lockstep figure and heavily vocodered vocal melody line of "Phoner to Arizona", before the plaintive ukulele and prancing synth buzz of "Revolving Doors" finds the singer at a reflective loose end: "On a foggy day in Boston, I sit in a diner, and The Beatles play". The twitchy offbeat electronic instrumental "Detroit" may be an homage to that city's techno heritage; though what the nightmarish, crazed modulations and cavernous tread of "The Joplin Spider" says about the famous "Route 66" location is perhaps less flattering; likewise the sinister synth instrumental "The Snake in Dallas".
"Parish of Space Dust", in which random radio-tuned snatches of Spike Jones, Glen Campbell and Brooks & Dunn preface a glorious sunrise synth glow, is one of the more appealing pieces, while the toot-toot of a toy train fanfares the album's most epic, widescreen soundscapes in "Amarillo", Albarn getting "lost on a highway" trying to "put a little love into my lonely soul". "Aspen Forest" is by contrast too methodical, until redeemed by the closing few seconds of sparkling, zither-like Quran; but it's remarkable how the iconic presence of Bobby Womack – that majestic voice, those soulful guitar flourishes – imposes a completeness to the extemporised "Bobby in Phoenix", equalled by few of the other tracks.
DOWNLOAD THIS Parish of Space Dust; Amarillo; Bobby in Phoenix; Revolving Doors
Grace Dent on TV The Secret Life of the Pub is sexist, ageist and a breath of fresh air
Art Megumi Igarashi criticises Japan's 'backwards' attitude to women's sexual expression
Ray Davies' Sunny Afternoon scoops the most awardsTheatre
Grace DentChannel 4 show proves there's no app for happiness
Arts & Ents blogs
- 2 Rarest Beanie Baby of them all could be sold for £62,500 on eBay
- 3 Professional big game hunter Ian Gibson crushed to death by elephant during hunt
- 4 Farmer told to tear down mock-Tudor castle after hiding construction behind hay bales
Better Call Saul creator Peter Gould on the creative concerns of a prequel, season 2 and the mind-numbing realities of the small courts
Britain's Got Talent 2015: RSPCA investigating Marc Metral's miming dog after cruelty complaints
Doctor Who film will definitely happen, leaked Sony emails reveal
Fifty Shades of Grey movie shows first sex scene 'after 40 minutes'
The Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice trailer has leaked – watch
If I’m being racially abused I don’t need a stranger with a saviour complex to rescue me
The only black face in the Ukip manifesto is on the page about overseas aid
Ukip is the only main political party to not address LGBT rights in its manifesto
Food banks: One million Britons will soon be using them, according to Trussell Trust
Religion isn't growing, it is becoming vigorous in its demise, says philosopher AC Grayling
BBC election debate: The one photo that summed up the whole 90-minute leaders debate