You’d be forgiven for forgetting about The Good, The Bad and The Queen. After all, it’s been over a decade since their self-titled debut release in 2007. But, the supergroup are back and more political than ever for their second album, ‘Merrie Land’. Covering anything and everything, is this album just protests on a soapbox?
If you didn’t already know, the band is formed of Gorillaz and Blur’s Damon Albarn, The Clash’s Paul Simonon, former Verve member Simon Tong and Afrobeat drummer Tony Allen. With that much musical knowhow, expectations are obviously high.
Throwing us straight in the deep end, confusion and abandonment are prevalent in the title track. Aside from the Brexit commentary, it acknowledges mankind’s destruction of Earth and feeble attempts to make changes: “Two hundred plastic bags in a whale’s stomach, so you turn to the trident, are we green, are we pleasant?”. The track is fragmentary but works well, sounding much like a wild rant after spending too long reading the news.
After that, the album goes downhill a bit, becoming more like the drunken ramblings of a village pub. ‘Gun To The Head’ is cynical, boasting an obscure production stemmed from the musicality of four very unlikely band members, whilst the unnerving Welsh chanting at the end of ‘Lady Boston’ make you grateful when it ends.
‘Nineteen Seventeen’ brings WWI into the mix: “I’m leaving a little bit of England in a field in France”. It highlights how, even after Brexit, England will never fully be apart from Europe because of its history with the continent. The floaty and experimental production struggles to match the lyrics, making it difficult to focus on any singular aspect of the song.
A disconnect between the music and vocals/lyrics is a running theme throughout the album. Maybe it’s to show the uncomfortable politics being tackled and the reality of them. Or maybe it’s just to mess with our heads. Either way, the seaside setting of ‘Drifters and Trawlers’ and bouncy tempo definitely do not fit with Albarn’s melancholy vocals. The result is a grating song that makes you feel like you’ve achieved something by making it to the end.
Anxieties surrounding abandonment resurface with ‘The Last Man To Leave’. But by now you just want it to end. The track never really picks up, instead staying at the same monotonous level which is tough to get stuck into. When the album eventually comes to a close, you’re left a bit depleted. The high expectations are long gone, and you’re left concluding that the world could do without these political outbursts.