In this digital age, it now seems like it was only a matter of time before an act that began life as a "virtual band" put out a "digital only" album. Recorded entirely on the road over just 32 days using Apple's latest all-purpose gadget, the iPad, 'The Fall' is, by its nature, a much more basic affair than we're used to from Gorillaz, yet it's still anything but simple.
Hitting the digital sphere on as a present to Gorillaz fan club members on Christmas day, there's something about 'The Fall' that smarts of gimmickry. Almost like one big advertisement for the iPad and its musical capabilities, if 'The Fall' had been written by anyone other than Damon Albarn, one might cynically suggest that Apple had put him up to it. Yet there's no doubting the skill and imagination behind these fifteen tracks. With only one guest vocal from Bobby Womack on 'Bobby in Phoenix', it's as if the glitz and pomp of Gorillaz has been stripped away, revealing a little of the method behind the eccentric outfit.
For the most part, 'The Fall' is relatively downbeat, with the likes of 'Revolving Doors' and 'HillBilly Man' founded on soft Spanish guitar before being bulked up with stumpy synths and sound effects. It's still recognisably Gorillaz, though, as circling electronic loops ground both up-tempo and down-tempo numbers alike. 'Detroit' turns dance and rave conventions on their head by juxtaposing them with playfully plucked strings, while 'Phoner to Arizona' becomes catchier with each listen, its futuristic tune shuffling on top of its fat, strident bassline.
Albarn's tendencies towards the experimental sometimes get the better of him though, the irritating repeating, overlapping voices that open 'The Speak It Mountains' among the instances where he seems to try just that little bit too hard. Had this been the long awaited, label funded follow-up to 'Plastic Beach' it might have been an enormous disappointment, but considering its origins, 'The Fall' is a unique accomplishment that gives incredible insight into the future of modern music.