You know you’re getting old when suddenly you’re content with clothes, cooking products and the odd DVD box set for Christmas. Unbelievable.
It’s shocking to think I’ve changed that much. I am supremely thankful for all of the generous gifts sent to me by friends and family. There was zero ruckus in the house, so I had a profoundly enjoyable day with the family.
This Christmas did hold something special for me on the music front. After an eventful year of Gorillaz events, the band had one last surprise in sort for fans: A musical diary recorded during their North American tour, released as an original 15-track album.
Damon Albarn, the musical auteur and co-creator of Gorillaz, recorded the music during spare time while on the road: “I did it because there’s a lot of time that you just spend staring at walls essentially. And it was a fantastic way of doing it.”
“I found working in the day, whether it’s in the hotel or in the venue, it was a brilliant way of keeping myself well.”
All of the music was recorded using Albarn’s iPad as the band travelled from Montreal to Vancouver via Seattle, Texas and Toronto.
“I literally wrote everything on the day in each place and there’s a strange sort of sound of America and its musical traditions that comes through. It feels like a journey through America.”
The Fall is its name, and though fan sites and web databases are classifying it as a studio album, this is an experimental collection through and through. It’s has been given away free to Sub Division members, and I’ve listen to my copy a few times since downloading it yesterday.
As with my Plastic Beach post back in March, these are initial impressions. How you feel about a song, especially as part of a whole album, changes according to your mood and whether it speaks to you. That said, few would argue that this album is almost strictly for fans. There are some vocal tracks, some instrumentals, solos and ensembles. As so few of the tracks jumped out at me, it feels like a B-sides album (though that sounds negative, their last B-sides album, D-sides contains some of their best work). I wasn’t expecting it to knock my headphones off – Plastic Beach did that already and I’ve learnt that magic that special takes time – yet as an experimental album written on the road it’s just the kind of innovation I love seeing from Gorillaz, and these tracks are by no means ‘throwaway’. In fact, a full album of this quality has to be the best holiday gift ever from any band I know.
Opening track ‘Phoner to Arizona’ is typical Gorillaz, a brooding chord that soon burgeons into a subconscious mind-seed – the kind of track I shun, then find myself oddly warming to after coming to some sort of mental clarity without realising it. ‘Revolving Doors’, with its curious lyrics and melodious beat, is as easy to get caught up in as its namesake. The low nautical tingle to ‘Shy-town’ and ‘Little Pink Plastic Bags’ feel like ever so gentle arrivals or exits, and resonate the same city-like vibe as ‘68 State’. ‘Amarillo’ is a laying out under the stars kind of song, like you’ve got all the time in the world. Bobby Womack also manages a heart-tugging camp fire solo, singing “let’s talk about feelings” in a way that somehow manages to be romantic. The spun gold of synth scales and piano melody in ‘Aspen Forest’ have warmed me most of all, though. It’s like being dropped into a leafy green labyrinth for two wonderful minutes before emerging from the forest canopy.
The Fall is available to stream now from Gorillaz.com and will be on general release in 2011. Have a listen for yourself and see what you take away from this musical journey through North America.