UK rock supergroup The Good, the Bad & the Queen is a strange ensemble. The group began as a solo project from Damon Albarn, known for his work in Blur and Gorillaz. However, Albarn later reached out to The Verve’s Simon Tong, The Clash’s Paul Simonon and Fela Kuti drummer Tony Allen to form a supergroup. What followed was 2007’s “The Good, the Bad & the Queen” which, at the time, was only the album name while the band remained unnamed.
The album was a bleak release with themes on an anti-war agenda. Produced by Danger Mouse, the album had an atmosphere of a coming storm looming toward London. Released on Nov. 16, after nearly 12 years, just as England plans to secede from the European Union, the band presents “Merrie Land.”
This Merrie Land
The album’s opening track samples a modern translation from “The Canterbury Tales.” It introduces the listener to an eerie atmosphere and producer Tony Visconti makes the album sound like a jolly night terror. Albarn insists from the beginning, on the album’s title track, that this album isn’t meant to sway listeners from one viewpoint to another. Rather, it serves as an outlet of concern from someone who loves his country. The album’s narrator frequently makes political assertions regarding his changing country. “Merrie Land” sees England as haunted, lost in its own identity.
“Merrie Land” presents itself like a play. String sections are heard throughout most of the album and Albarn narrates like a true showman throughout. The album’s title track is a standout among the others, mesmerizing and gloomy in how it sets the stage for what’s to come. “Gun to the Head” is a lovely sing-along that’s a bundle of fun for the pub. “Lady Boston” is a bittersweet track that incorporates some choir vocals to support a fantastic performance from Albarn, who comes across as the hopeless wanderer. “Truce of Twilight” sounds like a posh B-side to a Gorillaz track, with catchy backing vocals and themes regarding England’s citizens. “The Poison Tree” is a beautiful closer, feeling like a warm refuge from the cold world preceding it.
While the album has some signature tracks, it does have some filler. “Drifters & Trawlers” comes and goes like an intermission track. “The Last Man to Leave,” while intentionally chaotic in its composition, displays some of the more awkward stream-of-consciousness lyrical deliveries. Additionally, while the songs are good, they feel naked outside of the context of the complete playthrough. This means 37 minutes of your time needs to be set aside to truly encompass yourself in the atmosphere and plethora of ideas the album has to offer. Not unforgivable, but inconvenient for the casual listener.
How Merrie is it?
The second endeavor from The Good, the Bad & the Queen showcases a strong atmosphere. Its political commentary may not be the thing that sways the narrator’s beloved country, but it wasn’t meant to be. “Merrie Land” serves as a projected headspace for its narrator, approaching rambling as he witnesses the state of the British identity. It has some standout tracks and is laced with some humor to keep from being too somber of a listen. The album is a tour de England, looking at the rubble of the old way of life. The album is best explored through its respective YouTube videos for the tracks, which allow for a more immersive experience.