Merrie Land by The Good, the Bad & the Queen
Damon Albarn, despite all expectations to the contrary, has staying power. Having far outgrown the quibbles he and his first band, Blur, had with competing London rockers Oasis, Albarn has accomplished so much in his musical career that it’s astounding to think he’s only 50 years old, with so much more living — and, presumably, music — left to do.
Blur released their first album, Leisure, in 1991. Including that seminal album, Albarn has been a principle part of the production for eight Blur albums, six Gorrilaz albums, six various collaboration albums, one solo album and now, with Merrie Land, two albums with the collective known as The Good, the Bad & the Queen. That’s 23 albums in 27 years, an astounding feat for anyone. His 23rd album, here at #23; I swear I didn’t plan that.
The Good, the Bad & the Queen is by all measures a proverbial “supergroup”, featuring the aforementioned Albarn as the principle lyricist/vocalist, and a band made up of: The Clash’s bassist, Paul Simonon; The Verve’s guitarist, Simon Tong; and “perhaps the greatest drummer who has ever lived” (according to Brian Eno), Tony Allen. (Allen was the drummer and musical director for Fela Kuti’s band Africa from 1968-1979, whose work was the main influence for the Talking Heads’ album Remain in Light that was covered so beautifully by Angelique Kidjo and appeared at #30 just a week ago. So if you follow the bouncing ball: Tony Allen created Afrobeat with Fela Kuti, which in turn influenced the Talking Heads which was then covered by Kidjo and now the originator appears here in an entirely different context. I just blew my own mind.)
Merrie Land is the supergroup’s second album, but is markedly different from their 2007 debut, which was produced by Danger Mouse and was created under very different political circumstances. Albarn has stated that the new album, which was produced this time around by Tony Visconti (who — get this — won a grammy for his production of Angélique Kidjo’s 2007 album Djin Djin), is rooted in his personal goodbyes to the pre-Brexit Great Britain. Listen closely to the dark lyrics, and you can figure out exactly where Albarn’s loyalties lie.
Albarn takes the visuals of the music to new heights, with the album cover featuring an image from a 1945 horror film called Dead of Night where a ventriloquist is taken over by his dummy. Going further into the ventriloquist arena, Albarn dons dummy makeup and stars in a lip-syncing video for each song from the new album:
- Merrie Land
- Gun to the Head
- Nineteen Seventeen
- The Great Fire
- Lady Boston
- Drifters & Trawlers
- The Truce of Twilight
- The Last Man to Leave
- The Poison Tree
That’s a level of dedication to creative output that most musicians don’t or won’t tackle, but Albarn gives out like candy, and it’s much appreciated. If you’ve ever been a fan of Albarn in any of his many incarnations, then you should check out Merrie Land right now.
24. Room 25 by Noname
25. WARM by Jeff Tweedy
26. God's Favorite Customer by Father John Misty
27. Vessel by Frankie Cosmos
28. For Ever by Jungle
29. Twerp Verse by Speedy Ortiz
30. Remain in Light by Angélique Kidjo
31. This One’s for the Dancer & This One’s for the Dancer’s Bouquet by Moonface