Release Date: Jan 23, 2007
Record label: Virgin
Genre(s): Rock, Alternative
As the Good, the Bad and the Queen draws to a close, we find Damon Albarn reflecting on the passing of time. The penultimate song, Green Fields, begins with Albarn announcing that he wrote it "years ago, somewhere on the Goldhawk Road": the reference to the west London thoroughfare whose traffic noise appears on the 1995 Blur album The Great Escape suggests that "years ago" means the height of Britpop. "How the world has changed," notes Albarn.
Despite these echoes of the past -- and there are other echoes, too, arriving in Simonon's thundering dub bass, Tong's spectral guitars, Allen's nimble rhythms, and Albarn's vaudevillian piano and carnivalesque organ -- The Good, the Bad & the Queen is most certainly its own distinctive thing, the product of five iconoclastic musicians working a theme endlessly, relentlessly, and inventively, producing music that plays more like a movie than an album. Early on, as "History Song" eases into view on a circular acoustic guitar phrase, it establishes an alluring, dank, and artfully dour mood that the band continually expands and explores without ever letting the gloom lift. But for as dark as this is, GBQ never sounds despairing -- it's wearily resigned, as Albarn and his bandmates prefer to luxuriously wallow in the murk instead of finding a way out of it.
Having scored with animated supergroup Gorillaz, Damon Albarn continues his capricious career with another unclassifiable collective. The Good, the Bad & the Queen teams the former Blur frontman with ex-Clash bassist Paul Simonon, ex-Verve guitarist Simon Tong, and Afrobeat drummer Tony Allen (Danger Mouse produces). The mood is more melancholy than the lineup would suggest — much of the album sounds like ”Waterloo Sunset”-era Kinks set to languid dub grooves.
No one in their right mind could've predicted that some 12 years after the great war betwixt the anthemic Gallagher Chav Corps and the strategically squidgy Albarn/Coxon Alliance, that it'd be Blur's bonnie, scrawny lead lad Damon A. that triumphed. All macaque-rocking monkeys aside, this is an utterly on-target wartime opine, a masterful musical guerrilla action that finds the Clash's Paul Simonon, Verve guitarist Simon Tong, and Afrobeat godhead Tony Allen breaking ranks to create a near-perfect sonic snapshot of London under Blair's blowback blitz.