WHAT THE FUNK?!
Before I tell you how good this album is—which I will—I first must make one thing clear here. This album was produced by Brian “Danger Mouse” Burton, who as you very well know, is one-half of last year’s party stars Gnarls Barkley, who, with Cee-Lo Green the Soul Machine, put out one of the funkiest pop records in recent memory.
Danger Mouse knows how to make things funky, which he also proved on his Adult Swim oriented MF Doom collaboration, Danger Doom. This new super group also features Tony Allen on the skins. Allen, the backbone for Fela “The Black President” Kuti’s Africa 70, was the force behind such afro beat classics as Zombie, Music of Many Colours, and countless other dolemite records.
So my question to you, Damon Albarn, is where is the funk? Putting this matter behind us, the debut release from The Good, The Bad and The Queen—which also features former Clash member Paul Simonon playing bass and the Verve’s Simon Tong on guitar—is 43 minutes of acoustic based pop that is gentle enough that the queen of England herself might enjoy its subtlety.
“History Song,” the album’s opener, has Albarn crooning the words “Sunday’s lost, in melancholy.” These words sum up the entire album, as it is a perfect headphone album for a walk on a grey Sunday afternoon, or perhaps a rainy day. Hypnotic vocals, sporadic piano chords, and the only source of funk on this album—the slick bass plucking of Simonon—give this song a cool island feel.
The following track, “80’s Life,” includes Pet Sounds harmonies but lacks drums, and consequently Allen. Harmonies, distinctive bass lines, and island grooves continue throughout the next two tracks that also throw in the psychedelic keys and guitar effects that you would expect on a Gorillaz album, coincidently produced by Danger Mouse.
The album’s fifth track is the group’s first single, “Herculean,” featuring Albarn’s identifiably distorted English voice carrying the tune until a lush, chorus arrangement backed by dead-on Allen beats brings the tune to a close.
“Behind the Sun” mixes killer, out-front bass playing with exsquisitely placed strings that gives the track a classical reggae brew. The simple bass playing on “The Bunting Song” sounds as though it could’ve been laid down by Robby Shakespeare himself, as it’s delivered with such smooth boldness that it could easily pass for a classic dub track from Sly and Robbie.
My only complaint, of course, is the lack of Tony Allen on this record, as most of the drum parts sound simple enough for any drummer with a years experience could emulate with ease.
The Good, The Bad and The Queen sound similar to an English-bred version of the Flaming Lips…if they had grown up in Northern California in the 60’s and had indeed ingested copious amounts of acid. This is a good thing, as mixed with appropriately placed harmonies, just the right amount of strings, and sick sick sick rolling bass riffs make this a wonderful start to the 2007 season.