After covering the formation of The Good, The Bad & The Queen since last July, the time has finally come to soak in the efforts of this supergroup. To refresh your memory, the band is comprised of Damon Albarn (Blur, Gorillaz), Paul Simonon (The Clash), Simon Tong (The Verve) and Tony Allen (Africa 70, Fela Kuti). With a lineup like that, it was pretty difficult to predict which direction their music would go.
Rather than giving fans another fun-filled pop album a la Parklife or Demon Days, Albarn has gone in a totally different direction with The Good, The Bad & The Queen. This beautiful melancholy album is peppered with subtle dub beats, dark textures and moody lyrics that have pushed the album way above my expectations. Between the talents of these four accomplished musicians and Danger Mouse's production wizardry, they have given us quite a magnificent album.
The record begins with acoustic guitars and Albarn's moody vocals that eventually give way to a light dub beat on "History Song." The song slinks along effortlessly, as if it was a part of the repertoire from a seasoned group. While this isn't the most instantly accessible album, there are plenty of infectious grooves that will inspire many repeated listens, such as "Northern Whale." The simplicity of the song's structure allows Simonon's bassline to drive it along, while Tong's effects-coated guitars add plenty shimmering light to the deep rhythm of the track.
By far one of the finest moments on the album comes from the single "Herculean." Allen's syncopated Afrobeat rhythms help pick up the pace, moving the song along as it builds up a stunning climax with layer upon layer of vocal harmonies. The addition of a string section adds a bit of color to "Behind The Sun" and "Nature Springs," placing the emphasis on the fantastic melodies that run throughout the course of the album. If anybody has ever questions Albarn's songwriting abilities, The Good, The Bad And The Queen proves his skills beyond a shadow of a doubt.
Typically the whole supergroup idea results in an album much less impressive than the works from each member's own discographies. Fortunately, The Good, The Bad & The Queen has given us an album that definitely stands on its own. This postcard from London shows four unbelievably talented gentlemen who have produced a collection of songs that lives up to the hype. No, this is not just another Blur, Gorillaz, Clash or Verve record. This is something very different, very moving and simply fantastic.