The Good, The Bad & The Queen get Merrie…

It’s been 11 years since The Good, The Bad & The Queen released their eponymous debut album.

A lot has changed in that time too, and so has the attitude of the band. This is all reflected on their new album, Merrie Land. So what is it like?

The band members certainly haven’t changed. The four piece axis of Blur singer, Damon Albarn, legendary bass player for The Clash, Paul Simonon, guitarist for The Verve, Simon Tong and Afrobeat drumming legend, Tony Allen, still remain. The basis for the album is a changing Britain. 10 songs which delve through how and why Britain is changing.

The first song on the album is the title track, Merrie Land. Starting it off is a sample of A Canterbury Tale, before the fun fair sounding music kicks in, with Albarn subtly demanding that, “If you are leaving, please still say goodbye”. Strings accompany the obvious message in this song (you know what I’m on about), and it makes for a good opener. Track two has a sunnier sound to it, and it’s called Gun To The Head. A reggae sound, combined with essence of Britpop. So don’t let the track title fool you, listen to the chorus to get the meaning of it all.

Nineteen Seventeen is track number 3, and covers World War I. Tony Allen gives off a great drumming lesson on this song, as Albarn sings in reflection of those who fought in that time. The British feel to this album is really evident, and this song is no exception. The Great Fire is the fourth track of Merrie Land, and has Albarn narrating, with Simonon and Tong giving off the familiar rhythm of their former bands, and Allen radiating coolness in his drumming.

Lady Boston is the half way point song of the album. Every song on the album has a story behind it, and this one gets told as a story. Complete with producer, Tony Visconti, on recorder and the Cor Y Penryhn Bethesda male voice choir giving the song a real powerful tone, it’s an excellent track by a mile. Drifters & Trawlers is a nautical number, as you may have gathered by the title. Once again it features Visconti on recorder, and even has a sample of long departed TV chef, Keith Floyd, at the end of the song for good measure. It has a serious nature with a not too serious sound.

The Truce Of Twilight looks upon change. A tale of yesterday against how it is now. Given the circumstances that the band are covering over the course of Merrie Land, they keep the music reasonably upbeat. Ribbons is another terrific number. A ballad of sorts, Albarn and his vocals do this song justice, and is definitely the track of the album. You will listen to this one more than once.

Penultimate track is The Last Man To Leave. And the Lowery organ comes into its own again, Albarn giving commentary in song. A dark number in a Dickensian sense, but something that we cannot ignore in the modern times. The album finishes with The Poison Tree. This song really does wave goodbye, with Albarn remarking, “If you’ve got dreams you keep, and you’re leaving me, I’ll see you in the next life”. An elegant ending to an album which does make a point of the potential perils which could face Britain if they don’t get leaving the E.U right.

This is a very good album, given such a hazardous outlook of it’s subject. The calibre of the band cannot be denied, and it does, in parts, make you wonder that this could’ve been what The Clash may have gone for if Joe Strummer was still alive. The Good, The Bad & The Queen certainly make this a good listen, and provoke thought where it might not have gone before. Excellent work from a very distinguished band.

Merrie Land by The Good, The Bad & The Queen is available now on all formats on the Studio 13 label

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