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Gorillaz: The Fall
The creative genius of Damon Albarn and Jamie Hewlett is always a refreshing subject; one that involves intricately drawn cartoons, a virtual band and a fictional universe that’s composed of their entire musical project. Selling over seven million copies of their 2001 self-titled debut album, they’ve been deemed the most successful virtual band by the Guinness Book of World Records.
Constantly releasing albums, including two B-sides and a remix album, Albarn and Hewlett are continually experimenting with sound on many levels. Released in the spring, Plastic Beach took them to an ever greater place but not without some backlash.
The miles travelled by Albarn and Hewlett on their latest North American Plastic Beach tour inspired this album. According to the band’s website, Albarn had become frustrated with the amount of downtime on the tour bus, so they started writing this personal project and ended up with a full-length, fifteen-track album.
It doesn’t stop there, though. The album’s initial recordings were not only accomplished on the tour bus; but on an iPad as well. The band’s full exploitation of the hate-to-love technology led to a celebrated release of the album on Christmas Day. The Fall is available for free download if you’re a paying member of Gorillaz’ fan club. Otherwise, you can stream the entire album online via the Gorillaz homepage.
The band’s tour route (on which the album is based) includes a magical variety of landscapes. From the endless lines of scorching pavement to the sprawling Rocky Mountains, the fifteen songs tempt your imagination into playing a little visual game or two. The mystical, other-worldly atmosphere the album puts off makes for a fun digestion process of each and every song.
Like a neatly nested cocoon, The Fall bundles you up with a chilled, enigmatic vibe, and ‘Revolving Doors’ is a perfect example of that mood. The melodramatic territory of winter can be felt in the constant looping and waning tone, but when Albarn lyrically breeches the literal, it’s almost like you’ve heard it all before.
The album continues on with ‘Hillbilly Man’. Its spacious interlude provides a whimsical happiness, unexpectedly heating up mid-way and channelling their coolness until the very end. While ‘Shytown’ is slowly evolving, it provides no predicaments in proceeding through the rest of the album where you run into ‘The Parish of Space Dust’. Like a big-haired marching band waving that Texas flag with glory, it’s a hopelessly entertaining perspective of the state where everything’s bigger.
However, listeners may miss the saturated sound and energetic flow of Plastic Beach. Although Albarn and Hewlett received criticism from some hardcore Gorillaz fans that the electro pop and added instrumentation dramatically altered their sound, Plastic Beach is still one of our go-to albums to date.
With that being said, all is not lost with The Fall. Considering what the album presents with its multi-dimensional concept, they get a thumbs-up for the fun listening experience and mellow change of pace. Think of it as more of a soundtrack; the softer feel and smooth beats accompany the sonic journey well. If you take a few tracks at a time, getting into the groove isn’t difficult. The guys like to have a good time and for that, we are appreciative.
Album opener ‘San Angeles’ will get feet moving and booties shaking, but the rest of the album is decidedly more post-rock oriented. The influences of Pink Floyd only really make a grand appearance on psychedelic tune ‘Lunar Drift’, with its spooky synths and echoing bass line.
‘The Eliminator’ takes the listener back to the eighties again, as the repetitive electronic beat that is used sounds a lot like the 8-bit sounds that were the backdrop for many early eighties video games. Imagine the aforementioned desert wasteland turning 8-bit coloured.
The eighties also dominate in the strummed intro to ‘Martin Rev’, evoking memories of Survivor’s ‘Eye of the Tiger’. You’d almost think the guys of Maserati had wished they were making music a few decades ago.
Dutch producer, Tijs Michiel Verwest – who you’ll know better as Tiësto – has become a household name throughout his career as one of the best trance producers, constantly flirting with the line between artistically good and crowd pleasing. His latest release, A Town Called Paradise, unfortunately, goes miles beyond that line.
The album features an impressive 18 tracks, 15 of which feature vocalists. Some of the best produced albums benefit from a stable, underlying theme, but not to the point where you can’t distinguish songs from each other, as is with the case with A Town Called Paradise.
There’s very little trance to be heard on the album, if any at all. If you were a fan of the In Search of Sunrise series, or any of Tiësto albums, you’re in for disappointment.
The first four tracks of the album, including the title track, are absolutely indistinguishable from any other EDM you would hear on the radio; abrasive synthesizers, meaningless chorus, throw your hands in the air and wait for the drop.
‘Written in Reverse’ is the first track on the album that indulges, using a very short electro-like hook that is over faster than you can realise what happened. The next song, ‘Echoes’, featuring singer Andreas Moe, who you may recognise from Avicii’s ‘Fade Into Darkness’ and utilises more electro influences, but is quite short-lived.
It really doesn’t get much better from there. Actually, saying it “doesn’t get much better” implies it was decent at some point which is a big fat lie. It’s horrendous. You’re constantly listening to cheesy EDM lines followed by awful, noisy drops. There is little musical value, and little to distinguish any of the tracks from each other. Diving into specific songs seems a little redundant, besides maybe ‘Rocky’, which sounds suspiciously similar to Europe’s ‘The Final Countdown’, and ‘Shimmer’, featuring returning singer Christian Burns, who you’ll remember from Tiesto’s ‘In the Dark’ or Armin Van Buuren’s ‘This Light Between Us’.
Disappointing and, quite frankly, tedious, A Town Called Paradise is not just a mindless crowd-pleaser, but an exasperating and often irritating one. If you’re a fan of regurgitated, sub-par music and lyrics, this is the album and artist for you. We want that hour of our lives back.