A super group of sorts, The Good, The Bad and The Queen is pretty much exactly what you would expect it to be. The group consists of main songwriter Damon Albarn (Blur, Gorillaz), bassist Paul Simonon (The Clash), guitarist Simon Tong (The Verve), drummer Tony Allen (Fela Kuti), and producer/general noise-maker Danger Mouse (Gnarls Barkley, Gorillaz, Danger Doom). In short, some of my favorite people in music right now, sitting down and making an album together.
The first thing that jumped out at me is the un-Gorillaz-ness of the majority of the album. Sure, the voice is there…that can’t really be helped. But, whereas the Gorillaz generally feasted upon big beats and huge soundscapes, The Good, The Bad and The Queen seem to rely on much less than that. It can’t be called minimalist, as there are still a number of things going on, but most of those things are a bit more subtle. Also, most of the Gorillaz influences seemed to come from hip-hop or dance sources, but The Good, The Bad and The Queen draw from much different influences. Sure, there’s the occasional Gorillaz sounding track (like “Northern Whale”), but there’s also a doo wop feel to a track or two (most notably “80s Life”).
“History Song” kicks off the album with a nice acoustic guitar lick, followed by Damon’s very distinct voice, which leads nicely into the first Paul Simonon bass line heard in quite some time (it’s good to have you back, Paul). From there we’re fed a steady diet of organ and background noises. All in all a great starter.
I have to admit, though, that the first time I heard it I was less than thrilled. I don’t know if I was just expecting something different (possibly a fuller sound?), but it took a couple times to suck me in. Now? I can’t stop listening to it. The songs are so catchy and interesting, I can’t help but be addicted to it.
Judging from the sound, I don’t really think that this album is going to catch on in the same way that Gnarls Barkley or the latest Gorillaz album did…it’s just not that kind of album. I can see this staying closer to the ground than those two. For all I know, that’s what they’re looking for. At this point in their career, none of these members have to worry about sales or anything. They can just make the music they want to make and let the rest take care of itself.
Fortunately for all of us, they all realize this. In making the album they wanted, they may just have made the album of the year.
Essential Tracks: “Northern Whale”, “Nature Springs”, “Three Changes”
Favorite Tracks: “History Song”, “80s Life”
Check out their website here