4 February, 2007@12:00 am
It should be noted that the fact that The Good The Bad and The Queen is produced by Danger Mouse and features Gorillaz/Blur frontman, Damon Albarn in the lead, might lead listeners to believe that this was essentially another Gorillaz record. It’s not. This isn’t happy, danceable “Feel Good Inc” stuff, and there aren’t any animated simians to market the record to the mainstream audience – instead, just black and white drawings of West London’s gothic architecture and stark photos of four geezers the average listener might not recognize. But it’s good.
So who are those old blokes? Of course Damon Albarn, who teams up with Verve guitarist Simon Tong, Clash bassist Paul Simonon, and Africa70 drummer Tony Allen; all sewn together nicely with the board work of Danger Mouse. But while DM’s involvement in projects like Gorillaz and Gnarls Barkley added unmistakable hip-hop influence, it’s notably absent here. But that’s what separates this record from other projects any of the above mentioned artists have been involved with, is that it is it’s own animal entirely. The foundations of each artist are here, each of who lend characteristics of their respective signature sounds to create something new entirely.
In a nutshell, The Good The Bad and The Queen is a collection of folk rock songs about England, which will obviously keep it from being this year’s Gorillaz, and probably much more successful in it’s country of origin – like mince pie. Regardless, once over the fact that there isn’t any boom-bap on the record, listeners that were open-minded enough to enjoy the non-rap content of Demon Days, will find themselves enjoying the slow burn of this record as it seeps into the consciousness.
So while West London might not be your backyard, let Albarn be your tour guide, as he literally takes you on a walk through his neighborhood (hey, rappers do this shit all the time). The lead single, “Herculean” is perhaps one of the album’s most accessible songs, with some of the most harder edged guitar licks you’ll find on the record, still emanating an overall cool, breezy vibe to the song. The politics of the country are touched upon many times, such as on the album opener, “History Song”, which examines the early tree-hangings; or on “Nature Springs”, where Albarn expresses his frustration with the loss of identity and Americanization of the U.K. Again on “Kingdoom of Doom”, Albarn suggests that pop culture and the excitement of Friday nights has the country turning a blind eye to actions of it’s government. Hey, us yanks can relate.
In all of it’s beautiful, melancholy, bittersweet glory, The Good The Bad and The Queen is a project all it’s own, with the influence of many English rock pioneers (David Bowie, Pink Floyd, and of course, The Clash) looming above it. It’s different than anything the artists have done elsewhere, sounding like a (*shudder*) “mash-up” of each collaborator’s individual influence. Certainly not at all hip-hop, but highly original and very enjoyable.
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