February 8, 2007

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The Good, the Bad & the Queen, The Good, the Bad & the Queen
Virgin Records, 2007

For bottom-line types, the word on TGTB&TQ can be condensed into “Gorillaz without much high end,” conjuring slow-mo video shots of Damon Albarn in a dark trench coat getting closer, then, poof, closer as the factory belches filth into the sky behind him. But these are essays on being English and simultaneously of the world, to be more precise (or existential, whatever), so to accentuate his Englishness he’s brought in the Clash’s old bassplayer, Paul Simonon, and, to clarify that this is of the world, the drums, which could have been handled by anyone with jointed appendages, are assigned to Afrobeat godfather Tony Allen. Whether relayed through vocoder, stripped of effects, or buried in the mix like common Roger Waters non sequiturs, Albarn’s dawdling Brit-Dylan voice accuses (or urges) his countrymen to drink because they’re in a war without end, adopting the stance of a Coldplay-glossed folkie mourning for what’s been lost without making any real-world suggestions on what to do about it. We’re left with a brilliant, often mesmerizing but all too sketchy defeatist manifesto on the surface, which, with further musical fleshing-out (Verve guitarist Simon Tong is woefully underused), might have been worth serious investigation. CEric W. Saeger