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Album Review: Gorillaz - The Fall (Parlophone)

Damon ditches the celeb mates and takes up the iPad for his best cartoon hip-hop album to date

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8 / 10 Anyone who has been following the career of [b]Damon Albarn[/b]’s second biggest group over the last 13 years will be well aware that post-punk legend [b]Mark E Smith[/b] added his inimitable phrasing to ‘[b]Glitter Freeze[/b]’ last year. The glam-acid squelch of that ‘[b]Plastic Beach[/b]’ album track saw him become the latest in a long line of unlikely vocalists to sing over the skewed pop-dance that has become their calling card.

So it was with some excitement during 2010 that we learned [a]Gorillaz[/a] were releasing a fan-club-only album called ‘[b]The Fall[/b]’; for after all, who hasn’t wondered what a cartoon hip-hop/electro-pop band covering ‘[b]Hexen Definitive Strife Knot[/b]’ would sound like? Unfortunately the titular ‘Fall’ of the title refers not to northern England’s greatest rock band but to the season the album was made in. While on the ‘[b]Plastic Beach[/b]’ tour of North America in autumn 2010 Albarn and cohorts set about recording a new album on iPads during a 32-day stretch between Montreal and Vancouver.

It’s immediately clear this is a profoundly different beast to the previous three albums, featuring barely any guest stars (although ‘[b]Plastic Beach[/b]’ star [b]Bobby Womack[/b] does turn up on the sublime synthetic soul of ‘[b]Bobby In Phoenix[/b]’). This feels less like a talented middle-aged man and his sleb mates having a laugh and more like a cohesive album.

So there aren’t any retreads of ‘[b]DARE[/b]’ or ‘[b]Clint Eastwood[/b]’ but it is a stunning album from start to finish. We are treated to the lascivious Ohio Players/G-funk synth stylings of ‘[b]The Snake In Dallas[/b]’, which sounds as if [a]Dr Dre[/a] had been called in to produce [a]The Go! Team[/a]. ‘[b]Amarillo[/b]’ is a lachrymal ballad worthy of [a]Blur[/a] in their pomp and ‘[b]The Joplin Spider[/b]’ is aqua-crunk gone pop.

Thankfully, Albarn has now announced that this album is to get a physical release this month, which is fitting given that this quiet but ambitious record is one of the best he’s been associated with.

[b]John Doran[/b]

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