If Damon Albarn isn’t the most prolific superstar of our time, he’s definitely right up there. The Good, The Bad and The Queen is the third major act he’s fronted, and we all know how well Blur and Gorillaz worked out. He’s also put out a couple of eccentric solo albums as well as announced an upcoming project called Monkey: Journey To The West.
TG,TB&TQ is a semi-superproject that he formed and they’ve tailored a low-key, shaded album around his signature croon. Originally an album with serious potential, their self-titled is, however, unfortunately burdened by entangled, melancholy serenades – with Albarn playing the part of the disenchanted arranger.
All of Albarn’s work seems to have a particular cadence. It’s typically a mid-tempo shuffle with strong emphasis on the upbeat. Considering all the latter Blur use of, the Mali Music solo album, and the pseudo hip-hop of Gorillaz, it seems that drummer Tony Allen would fit in nicely on TG,TB&TQ. Yet, for some reason, this co-founder of afrobeat is relatively unused on the album. Acoustic ballads dominate the album, with only a few opportunities like the dub-jazz “Three Changes” for Allen to perform on.
Throughout TG,TB&TQ, Albarn employs somber vocals in spades. The opening track, “History Song”, has a throaty moan over an acoustic creep and “Northern Whale” is similar, but uses a light digital beat instead. Further yet, “Kingdom Of Doom” is just a somber, acoustic/piano shanty that never overcomes the fog. Even the album’s most affable track, “Herculean” slinks along with its brim pulled low with tin-can vocals eventually enveloped by swirling electronic clouds.
If you enjoy Albarn’s darker side, and have a high blood pressure problem then The Good, The Bad and The Queen will do you good. While curious and progressive, these songs just never reach any level of adrenaline-pushing capability, and don’t really utilize all of the talent that stands behind the album. Still, it’s always nice to hear anything that people as gifted as Albarn and this crew would put out.