Something special to kick off the holiday season; a session recorded earlier in the day by The Good, The Bad and The Queen for Steve Lamacq at BBC 6 Music.
Coinciding with the release of Merrie Land, Damon Albarn, Paul Simonon, Simon Tong and Tony Allen teamed up once again to record their second album which took the better part of a year to put together. The album was released on 16 November 2018, and was produced by Tony Visconti. Initially a side-project of Blur’s Damon Albarn, The Good, The Bad And The Queen has taken on a life of its own, this session celebrates the release of the new album and has been greeted enthusiastically by the press on both sides of the Atlantic.
Sessions for the album started in January 2017, when Albarn, Simonon and Tong spent time in Blackpool, which was originally going to be its main focus. However, Albarn expanded the focus of the album over the next two years while touring with Gorillaz for the albums Humanz and The Now Now.
In an interview with The Guardian, the band members admitted that Merrie Land shares creative attributes with its predecessor, The Good, the Bad & the Queen, but stylistically the two are dissimilar. Simon characterized Merrie Land as “modern English folk music with a bit of rub-a-dub in it” while Allen noted “this time around, people can dance”. The interview, conducted by music critic John Harris, focused on the album’s inspiration in the Brexit vote, and how that impacted the themes on Merrie Land. Where the band’s first album was “murky” in its depiction of London, Merrie Land “[evokes] the contorted confusion of Brexit”, and “widens its focus beyond the capital and has an even sharper sense of place.” Simonon also highlighted the album’s title as “kind of [alluding] to people’s nostalgic, sentimental vision of how England used to be. And it never really existed.”
Reviews for the album have been mostly positive, with The Independent calling the album “entertaining and theatrical” and stating that its vocals “capture the social observation of [Blur’s] Parklife”, and Clash magazine labeling the album “curious twenty-first century folk about curious twenty-first century folk”, adding that while Albarn’s lyrics concerning Britain were a “proven formula”, it was his collaboration with the rest of the band that made the album unique. At Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating out of 100 to reviews from mainstream critics, the album received an average score of 77, indicating “generally favorable reviews”. Some critics felt that the album was unfocused, with The Guardian stating that despite its rich instrumentation, its writing “never resolves into anything concrete”. NME held a similar position, referring to it as “muddled” and stating that “beyond the title track and ‘Lady Boston’, it begins to wear thin quicker than a seagull nosediving to your soggy paper of chips”.
At least the reviews are creative. Crank this one up and grab the album while you’re at it.