If Damon Albarn has the one talent worth recognising, it's that he knows to surround himself with the right people. In his continued quest to shed the redundant image of Damo The Britpop Clown for something more serious, eclectic and influential, the danger that there isn't really enough of him to go around his various projects is constantly present. But in a masterstroke of staging that's never the primary concern. In Gorillaz he aligned himself with the cutting edge, wrapped himself in crayoned-on clothing and took the plaudits as his collaborators made the star turns. But he remained the natural and necessary constant. The Good, The Bad & The Queen
(a one-off production rather a proper band, apparently) is an extension of that template, but feels more like Damon's show.
The distractions this time are Clash legend Paul Simonon, who prowls the shadows watching Damon's back, building a strong dub bass back-bone, and Afrobeat drummer Tony Allen whose contributions are subtle but efficient. Oh, and Damon's session player of choice Simon Tong, formerly of The Verve. Together they weave a diverse, often beguiling and generally sombre strand of London-based woe, occasionally lifted by the intrinsic hope of the music like on the swelling sun-rise anthem "Herculean". The songs rarely kick through as with Blur and Gorillaz, instead retaining a steady quality and ambience, lead by Albarn's Small Faces-esque piano foundation, but "80s Life" and "Behind The Sun" are real highlights. --James Berry.
The Good The Bad & The Queen - S/T - cod:10138