Wednesday, 20 February 2019

The Good, The Bad & The Queen - The Good, The Bad & The Queen (2007)


  

Released January 2007

This was the first collaboration between ex-Blur Damon Albarn, ex-The Clash Paul Simonon, ex-The Verve Simon Tong and Fela Kuti's ex-drummer Tony Allen. It is a reflective, melancholic, sometimes miserable message for the new millennium. Its appeal however, is quite a seductive one. All very muddy art rock and "noir". It is a real grower, however, and worthy of several listens before you find it seeping into your consciousness. I listened to this for the first time after hearing 2018's "Merrie Land" and I prefer this one. Both have hidden depths, but this has more, I feel. There is something quite beguiling about it.

TRACK LISTING

1. History Song
2. 80s Life
3. Northern Whale
4. Kingdom Of Doom
5. Herculean
6. Behind The Sun
7. The Bunting Song
8. Nature Springs
9. A Soldier's Tale
10. Three Changes
11. Green Fields
12. The Good, The Bad & The Queen

"History Song" is a Joe Strummer meets Madness shuffler of a song, full of understated atmosphere. "80s Life" is a sad-sounding number with a melancholic vocal. There are fifties doo-wop influences on it and some fetching keyboards too. "Northern Whale" is a quirky, mournful and moody track, it sounds world-wearily cynical. All that nineties joie de vivre has completely evaporated. I a no surprised, I was never convinced by it. There are some nice keyboard breaks on it too, very "Heroes" era David Bowie or Brian Eno. "Kingdom Of Doom" is a Madness-influenced once again doom-ish creation. "Herculean" has a big pounding bassy industrial backing and a muffled, echo-ey, haunting vocal. There are lots of doom-laden soundscapes all over this one.

"Behind The Sun" uses a similar effect on the vocal, rendering it plaintive and coldly mysterious. The bass from Simonon and Allen's gentle cymbal work are both captivating. This one eats into you. A sumptuous bass helps to introduce the very Paul Weller-esque "The Bunting Song". On the collective's second album, 2018's "Merrie Land", Albarn's vocals are very influenced by Suggs of Madness and Joe Strummer. On here, there are far more echoes of Paul Weller's contemporary work such as 2000's "There's No Drinking After You're Dead" from the "Heliocentric" album.  Indeed, Weller's voice on 2012's "Sonik Kicks" is very influenced by this, in turn.

"Nature Springs" is a beautifully low-key, slightly ghostly number. Once more, the bass is sublime as is the chugging rhythm. There is a classic slice of Simonon dub half way through. "A Soldier's Tale" is bleak and eerie, and as with all the album, packed full of atmosphere. "Three Changes" has a deliciously resonant bass thump and another Weller-styled vocal. These songs really are ones that hear and immediately think you want to listen to again. There is nothing immediately catchy about them but they demand repeated listens. Funnily enough, there is something in Albarn's vocal delivery that brings to mind Liam Gallagher of all people. It is in the phrasing. The drawn-out bit at the end of each line.

"Green Fields" is arty and slightly sixties psychedelic-influenced in vague places, but essentially dour. Its keyboard sound is almost prog-rock as well. The title track is a lengthy, infectious bass-driven number with an intoxicating vocal. Good stuff. Its madcap keyboard "wall of sound" brings to mind parts of George Harrison's "All Things Must Pass" or even Wizzard's bizarrely experimental "Wizzard Brew". As it builds up into a cacophony, though, you can't help but think of Roxy Music's "Ladytron".

As I said earlier, this album demands repeated listens.

B

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