The Good, The Bad and The Queen – The Good, The Bad and The Queen (Parlophone Records)

Damon Albarn returns with his new “all-star” group, The Good, The Bad & The Queen, featuring Paul Simonon (ex-Clash) on bass, Simon Tong (ex-Verve) and Tony Allen (ex-Fela Kuti) on percussion. These clashing styles (no pun intended) actually mesh well, while still allowing each member to keep their signature sound (Albarn writes ultra-British songs, Simonon plays reggae-inspired bass lines, Tong uses his guitar for ambient colors rather than riffs, and Allen keeps the rhythm, although his playing is the most subdued of the bunch) including producer Danger Mouse who adds his usual psychedelic nerd-pop sheen.

The group’s debut is a surprisingly low-key record with no obvious hit singles, instead focusing on a consistency most Damon Albarn projects are missing. I can hear “History Song” and “Herculean” getting some pop airtime, but the album is pretty dour – more “boo-hoo” than “woo-hoo” – reflecting disillusionment on a personal and national level (there are many references to England and war). The consistently downbeat vibe gets a little oppressive towards the last few songs, but they’re still very listenable. I’m not sure if The Good, The Bad & The Queen will reach the same heights as the band members’ previous career highlights, but it has enough good things going for it to make it an interesting listen.


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