Wednesday, January 24, 2007

The Good, the Bad & the Queen Defies and Meets My High Expectations

Any Damon Albarn release - and really anything Blur-related - is cause for celebration round the N&UR offices. Yesterday saw the release of his latest venture, an unnamed supergroup with a loose concept album about modern day London. The roster of Paul Simonon, Simon Tong and Tony Allen (with Danger Mouse behind the boards) certainly brought with in some expectations. Even with the elegant single, "Herculean" as a precursor, assumption was we might be hearing some epic Blur meets the Clash, sprinkled with Gorillaz influence. That is all present, but not necessarily as one might expect. The Good, the Bad and the Queen hardly matches Gorillaz' Demon Days in terms of intensity of pop singles, yet it is nothing short of fantastic. It bears a great resemblance to Mali Music, the 2003 record Albarn made in Africa, restricting himself mostly to the background. Hints of that African sound are there, but mostly its an application of the same minimalist touches he applied there. This is something he was working with in Blur on the best tracks from 2003's Think Tank - "Ambulance," "Out of Time," and "On the Way to the Club."

The record meets my expectations because I love it - yet it defies my expectations in that its simplicity makes it a little complex. You would think with that much firepower in your band, everyone would be eager to let loose and jam - but it just never happens. Opener "History Song" builds up its instrumentation, slowly adding each member into the song. Once they all meet, you'd expect something to change - but it doesn't happen. In fact, the record keeps a mellow course, until the storm breaks in the closing title track, a 6 minute number that begins the rest, progresses to the instruments crashing into one another, ultimately just becoming white noise.


BWH999 said...

I totally agree. I'm so glad they kept it simple and tight.

Anonymous said...

I have just ordered it from Amazon - hopefully it will be with me by the weekend.