25 September 2023

Merrie Land

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Reviewed by Ian Phillips.

By The Good, the Bad & the Queen, ADA/Studio 13 2018.

This album is the first I’ve heard from The Good, The Bad & The Queen.

The band consists of Damon Albarn, multi-instrumentalist and lead singer from Blur, Paul Simonon bass player for The Clash, Afro-beat drummer Tony Allen, and Simon Tong, guitarist and keyboard player for The Verve.

Apparently it’s been 11 years since their previous album, their self-titled debut, so it’s obvious their energies have been directed into their other projects.

This album is peculiarly English in its musical palette and subject matter.

In many ways it reminded me of the work of Ray Davies of The Kinks.

The 10 songs were written during the period of turmoil that has become known as Brexit and in a way it’s a sort of reluctant good-bye letter to Europe penned via a series of observations and reflections on Britishness.

Although the music is quite different from that of The Kinks, there’s that familiar sense of whimsy that Kinks songs always engender.

While the album is nostalgic it’s also hopeful and champions the modern inclusive Britain which is currently wrestling with the crisis that comes at the end of an intense relationship, when you wonder what might be salvaged from the wreckage and where you’re heading.

The shared musical histories of the members of this band seem to be perfectly positioned to undertake the examination of such a large topic.

They have created a concept album that reflects on the anticipation, fear, disorientation and confusion that has followed the momentous decision for Britain to disentangle itself from its union with Europe.

The band has walked a narrow path between conflicting viewpoints and it’s difficult to say on which side of the ledger they fall, although with song titles like; Gun To The Head, The Poison Tree, The Truce of Twilight and The Last Man To Leave, I get the impression that they would prefer the marriage to continue.

The album is quiet and reflective which suits the gravity of the lyrics.

It grows on you the more you listen to it.

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