The Good, The Bad, and the Queen – The Good, The Bad, and the Queen (Virgin)
Not to state the obvious, but we’re living in troubled times. Wars spreading and the heavy hand of government and commerce coming down with impunity to crush anyone who stands in the way make for an uneasy populace. I don’t know what it would take to kick the public into revolt but Damon Albarn clearly hopes it comes soon and he’s prepared the soundtrack.
Teaming with ex-Clash bassist Paul Simonon, Verve guitarist Simon Tong, and Nigerian percussionist Tony Allen, Albarn once again stretches his musical legs with an album that is one part Gorillaz pop, one part old school dub, and more than a pinch of subversive politicing.
Damon Albarn was famously snubbed by Britain’s New Labour government after he (and other Brit Pop stars, including Oasis’ Noel Gallagher) threw their support for Tony Blair, so it’s interesting to see him dabbling once again in politics. The difference this time is his involvement as an artist and observer instead of a campaigner. The result is an apocalyptic album with grave musical overtones that exhilarate rather than depress you.
Like anyone who gives a shit about civil rights, justice, and reason, Albarn is clearly as fucked in the head as the rest of who have had to live through the Bush-Blair madness since 9-11. There’s an undercurrent of doom throughout the album, both musically and lyrically that keeps the listener appropriately on edge. If Guy Fawkes were to reincarnate today and re-hatch his Gun Powder Plot to blow up Parliament, he’d surely have this album blaring through his headphones.
But even those not obsessed with geopolitics or Bush hatin’ will find plenty to like on this album. It’s moody and spooky with lots of reverb, interesting instrumentation and subtle beats that should keep hipsters nodding in their hoodies. The songs feature Albarn’s signature vocal delivery and clever lyrics, which should keep Blur fans happy, as well as some bizarre and appropriately strange guitar work from Tong that will remind everyone why the Verve was so great in its day.
And did I mention that a member of the Clash is involved? Yes, I did.
Like many artists, Damon Albarn creates a lot of material. Not all of it is great, but a high enough percentage is that he’s earned his place as the most unique and interesting talent to emerge from the Brit Pop explosion of the early 90s. The Good, the Bad, and the Queen ranks as one of his best pieces. I wonder if any of it will appear on George W. Bush’s playlist?
“Kingdom of Doom” video
“80’s Life” live
“3 Changes” live