The Good, The Bad & The Queen CD review [Virgin/EMI]
Apr 16, 2007, 03:41
THE GOOD, THE BAD & THE QUEEN CD
This is one of those releases that you have to listen to a few times before your ears truly shed the expectations they may have. Damon Albarn is proving to be a modern-day George Harrison; collecting odd ensemble casts of musicians and cartoons, only to wander off into some unknown land for a bit to give you a chance to catch up to him. Grabbing the Clash's bassist, Paul Simonon, Verve's Simon Tong, Fela Kuti's bandleader Tony Allen, and Danger Mouse, it is folly to expect a Gorillaz-like record. Instead, it's more Village Green Preservation Society, a commentary on the sleepy bourgeois who have managed to retain immunity to the unending terror, poverty and war in the Orwellian state of modern Western life. Instead of taking a haughty “We Are the World” approach, however, the multi-talented and multi-faceted group seems to ask a simple question: Why does it have to be this way?
Much like the Clash's Sandinista!, there is almost more meaningÂ being alternately hiddenÂ and exposed by the instruments and arrangements, even on the doo-wop of “80's Life.” It's easy to purposely not hear the content of the lyrics and just hear the light groove and dub, should you so desire. Chances are, however, that you're going to pick this up for the thoughtfulness, and not simply because it gets endless play in your local coffee shilling joint.Â Considering that Simonon, Tong, Danger Mouse and Allen are no strangers to controversy, it's more likely that you're interested in what they've got to say than in their fashion sense. Repeated listens continue to bring out more and different aspects of the record as a whole, and it's hard not to wonder about the person Damon's talking about who decides toÂ “drink all day, cuz the country's at war.”Â Is it the same person who declares “I don't wanna live a war that got no end in our time” or the person who says, “I see everything in black and white?”Â
While there is very subtle protest on this record, the cries are not aimed at government, but at the nameless, faceless people of a generation with messed up priorities, who wholeheartedly buy into the war machine propaganda spewed hourly on their brand new gadgets.Â A blasÃ© attitude is revealed to be a most potent weapon in “Herculean,” wherein Damon reminds someone that the country's problems are “bigger than you and the welfare state.”Â A ticking sound, somewhere in between a heart rate monitor and electronic clock timer/bomb timing mechanism makes its eerie point on “The Bunting Song,” turning a piece of a lullaby into a song about isolationism.Â “Oh, it's all right,” Damon seems to reply to these unfolding events at the end of “Three Changes,” “Everything's jolly/Running up the hill/on a stroppy little island of mixed up people.” So far, this has my vote for the best album of 2007. [Virgin/EMI]