The Good, the Bad & the Queen: Merrie Land review – Damon Albarn's scattergun sketch of Britain

Damon Albarn

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(Studio 13)

In line with the official bumf accompanying the second album from Damon Albarn’s multigenerational supergroup, Merrie Land is “an attractive and hopeful paean to the England of at this time”. Drummer Tony Allen told the Guardian last week that it’s an album individuals can dance to. Both sentiments may shock these choosing up the report: the duvet features an image of a terrified Michael Redgrave in Lifeless of Night time, a movie through which he performs a ventriloquist taken over by his dummy, and the musical mood of a lot of the album is a dense, unsettled fug: slightly paranoid, somewhat unfocused. The combined presence of Albarn’s organ and flattened voice, Paul Simonon’s dubby bass, and occasional horns provides songs resembling Nineteen Seventeen and The Truce of Twilight one thing of the mood of the Specials’ Ghost City, but without that track’s virtually hallucinatory clarity. You are feeling as when you – and the band – are groping for melodies which are virtually there however never quite materialise out of the mist.

One may argue that this dislocated, discombobulated mood is wholly applicable for an album clearly meant as a state-of-the-nation tackle. It’s additionally value wondering whether a 50-year-old millionaire pop star is one of the best individual to sum up the state of the nation. For all that the album was apparently inspired by Albarn travelling around the country “watching, listening” to odd Britons, you don’t get the sense of any real-life Britain so much as a succession of photographs you may get from a night flicking by means of Channels four and 5: rowdy canine stored on leads, “narcotics bought in Boots”, altercations on the B-road, alcoholism in Preston station, manicured lawns of an England barricaded in the 50s. There’s some pretty writing, however it by no means resolves into anything concrete. It’s not helped by the truth that, for all of the cleverness and richness of the musical textures, there aren’t loads of precise tunes.

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