Hard to believe it’s been 11 years since the first s/t album from The Good, The Bad & The Queen. The Damon Albarn lead group includes Paul Simonon (The Clash), Simon Tong (The Verve) and the expert drumming of Tony Allen. With the cloud of Brexit hanging over England, Albarn sings what at times sounds like a stream of consciousness lyrics over a bed of improvised music. “Nineteen Seventeen” has no chorus and the lyrics of “The Great Fire” have a free association feel. The title track is an anxious yet very wordy statement on England and its current politics.
Unlike most modern albums, the second half is more memorable. “Drifters & Trawlers” is an anthem for weary workers the world over and “The Truce of Twilight” features rough and ready gang singing in the chorus. Great bassline and horns, this sounds like a mature ska band banging out a classic tune. Albarn is at his best when softly and wistfully looking back on times that may or may never have ever existed. “Ribbons” is one of his most beautiful songs in ages and closer “The Poison Tree” says goodbye with a dreamy organ lulling you to sleep.
Produced by Tony Visconti, there is a dark and creepy aspect to the album. Like a fairground closing down but you can still hear music playing from somewhere. On Merrie Land; The Good, The Bad & The Queen chases down England’s ghosts that haunt the alleyways and cobblestone corners. Not all of it works but there are moments that will haunt the listener’s mind long after the stereo has turned off but magically still plays.