Gorillaz return with "The Fall"

It's no secret that Damon Albarn, former Blur front man and current front man for the Gorillaz, is willing to push the envelope. With The Fall, Albarn and the Gorillaz do just that. Produced by the Gorillaz themselves as well as Stephen Sedgwick, The Fall was made available to the general public last week, four months after being released exclusively for Gorillaz Sub-Division (fan club) members. Described on their website as a "15- track sonic journey - recorded between Montreal and Vancouver over 32 days last autumn," The Fall is a musical narrative of the Gorillaz' tour through North America.

Each track has a context deeper than the album itself; what they have, rather, is a geographical context. Each song is inspired by or alludes to the location it was recorded in, giving The Fall a very nomadic feel.

Recorded entirely on Damon Albarn's iPad, the fourth Gorillaz studio album is as much avant-garde as its predecessor, Plastic Beach, but lacks the same fearlessness. By Albarn's standards, The Fall is slow and unspectacular.

Even though The Fall is tedious more often than not, it's not without its impressive moments. As a concept album, it is successful in taking you on a tour from Boston to Houston to Oakland to Seattle amongst other North American cities.

The main criticism of The Fall, however,would be that it is too apparent that it originated from an iPad. The cheesy electronic horns and bass lines overshadow the few bright spots of the album. It seems as though the Apple tablet restricts Albarn and prevents The Fall from realizing its full potential. Although recording an entire album on an iPad while on tour is impressive, you can't help but feel that it demeans the quality of the album.

Albarn knew the sacrifice he was making when he decided that The Fall was going to be recorded on an iPad, but perhaps the challenge was too intriguing to pass up. Without question this album has potential, but it seems like more of a rough draft than a finished product.

That being said, what Albarn can do with an iPad, 90 percent of musicians couldn't do in a studio. Despite the restrictions of the iPad and the distractions of a continent-wide tour, the Gorillaz were still able to produce a quality album. Not for the masses, but The Fall seems more like a gesture to hardcore Gorillaz fans.

Clearly The Fall is not a conventional album, and presumably Albarn didn't expect to yield any platinum records from it. It's an album that's as disappointing as it is ambitious, which isn't very much.