The Good, The Bad And The Queen live at the BBC 6 Music Festival in Liverpool in March.A Standout performance at A standout festival. The Damon Albarn side-project is coming into its own and, in theatre slang, has legs. Their latest opus, Merrie Land is being favorably compared to Albarn’s other band Blur, and that breakthrough album which put them over the top.
Before they released a record, the Good, the Bad & the Queen first started playing concerts, unveiling their complete album at a series of concerts, culminating with a gig at Camden’s Roundhouse just before their debut single, “Herculean,” hit the shops. This spooky single appropriately surfaced the day before Halloween in 2006, followed by “Kingdom of Doom” in January 2007. The full-length The Good, the Bad & the Queen appeared that month as well on both sides of the Atlantic, greeted with uniformly positive (sometimes enthusiastic) reviews. Shortly after the album’s release, Albarn began to insist in press interviews that this band had no official name, a bit of an odd move considering the numerous articles, written in 2006 as the group was recording that called the outfit the Good, the Bad & the Queen. The quartet went on tour in the spring of 2007, playing events in New York and the Coachella festival.
Rocket Juice & the Moon The Good, The Bad & The Queen went quiet after 2007, yet the members stayed in contact. Simonon and Tong both appeared on Plastic Beach, the 2010 album by Gorillaz, while Albarn and Allen teamed up with Flea for the 2012 album Rocket Juice & the Moon. TGTBTQ reunited to play an anniversary concert for Greenpeace at London’s Coronet Theatre in November 2011, while Allen and Tong played on Albarn’s Dr. Dee album in 2012. It wasn’t until 2014 that Albarn announced the possibility of a new album from the Good, The Bad & The Queen, but the record he murmured about that year never appeared. The group didn’t return to action until November of 2018, when they released Merrie Land. Produced by Tony Visconti, Merrie Land chronicled Britain during the era of Brexit.
And here’s a slice of Richard Driver’s review of Merrie Land for Pop Matters:
Merrie Land evokes a perfect reflection of Brexit by Damon Albarn, connecting to his long career from Blur through Gorillaz and into the Good, the Bad & the Queen. Yet, the album’s success is not through him singly, rather the collaboration gained with the other members of this supergroup. The music performed by Allen, Simonon, and Tong, holds a strong presence on the album, necessarily complementing Albarn’s lyrics while simultaneously crafting a modern folk sensibility. Allen’s drums are ever-present but occasionally subdued to emphasize organ, guitar, and bass performances. Simonon’s bass and Tong’s guitar serve to give Albarn’s organs, pianos, mellotrons, and other keyboard instruments grounding when the lyrics stray to angry or dejected. The Good, the Bad & the Queen’s return is equally worth celebrating, even if the lyrics root Merrie Land very much in a 2018 mindset, the stylistic and genre contributions to British folk and nostalgic musicality are immense and take the reflections on Brexit into Albarn’s intended reflections of England and Englishness.
Crank it up and sit back.