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coverpic flag England - Full Moon 127 - 02/02/07

The Good, the Bad & the Queen
The Good, the Bad & the Queen

I decided to put this disc on while listening without prejudice, because I've in fact been very sceptical to this whole project. The term "super group" is one thing tending to arouse suspicion. Another thing keeping my guard held high is the name of the band. The Good, the Bad & the Queen... By far one of the worst names in the history of popular music, if you're asking me. If the name (and album title) is part of the album's concept/red thread - it's still a stupid name. Maybe it makes more sense if you're British. Or...? Or is it just a reason to name a 'project', not a band?

It's been some 3-4 years since Damon Albarn put Blur on ice. Just before that, and since then, he's done a motion picture soundtrack along with Michael Nyman (Ravenous, directed by Antonia Bird), been doing some serious world music collaboration with musicians from Mali, as well as being part of the silly, stupid, cartoonish hip-pop Gorillaz project. Now he's teamed up with bass legend Paul Simonon (just imagine the smashing of the bass on the cover of London Calling). Since the days of the Clash, Simonon has been out of the music biz (occupied with the art of painting). The other half of TGTBTQ (in short) is guitarist Simon Tong (ex-The Verve and The Shining) and drummer Tony Allen (Fela Kuti's band, Africa 70, plus a long solo career). And TGTBTQ's debut album TGTBTQ (in short) is 12 songs in 43 minutes. And, it isn't that bad.

In fact TGTBTQ is growing for each spinning. It's quite clearly a line of songs involving Albarn, not that far off from the Blur path. But Simonon and Allen's lines of rhythm are of a more dub-oriented kind, bringing quite a distance to the Brit-pop bag of the 90s. I expected a more aggressive album, or sound. Many of the songs are very ballad-like, chilled and laid-back. And the overall 'feel' of the album is rather gloomy, life-weary (as is Albarn's voice), especially on the lyrical side. Sort of snapshots from a semi-traumatic England, after messing up things with their allied friend USA in Afghanistan and Iraq. This is not a summery album. Musically TGTBTQ sort of sounds like, or can be described as a mixture of The Kinks (not the sunniest parts), the Clash (the experimental, not the punky parts) and The Smiths (when out there in the calm and quiet indie heather). Which gives...dub-mod-pop in Melancholia.

TGTBTQ is not a classic, but it's an appealing album. And growing. There are some simple, but delicious details in the arrangements ('less is more' style): keyboards, violins, cellos, guitars. Highlights are "Northern Whale", "Herculean", "Eighties Life" (even if it almost sounds too cheesy) and "Nature Springs". "Green Fields" is also good, and very Ray Davies-y in some way. The title track closes the album, sort of as a signature track. It's the most up-tempo song, and also the most Blur-ish one. TGTBTQ is better than the last two Blur albums. It has its strengths, and some weaknesses. I will not try to be a joker here rating the album as either "good, bad or ugly". I'd just say it is a proper platter, but I doubt it'll be on the lists when this decade's going to be summed up in a few years.

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