Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Paul recommends: 'The Good The Bad & The Queen' -- Damon Albarn's supergroup

I thought I'd reproduce this missive from my buddy Paul in London (that's a pic I made of him when I stayed at his flat for a coupla weeks some time ago).

Paul was my best friend up to Grade 2 in primary school, before he moved to a different school. I trust his musical judgement. And have in fact 'discovered' joys and wonders thanks to his recommendations. I put 'discovered' in inverted commas cos HE did the discovering on my behalf.

I'm gonna go and buy this album at the next opportunity.

Dear fellow music lovers,

Please forgive the group mail, but I feel it is my moral duty to tell you that I have heard the first great album of the year, nay the greatest album since the heady OK Computer (not counting, of course, Rufus Wainwright's Want One/Two which you probably know is my all time favourite album). As someone slightly prone to the odd bout of hyperbole, you may be tempted to take this recommendation with a spade full of salt, but I really can assure you that The Good The Bad & The Queen is a masterpiece of modern melancholy.

You will know that TGTB&TQ is Damon Albarn's 'supergroup', including Paul Simonon (the Clash), Simon Tong (The Verve) and Tony Allen (Afrobeat). Albarn can come across as self important and smug, but on the strength of his work with Gorillaz and now TGTB&TQ, he more than deserves your respect.

There's an effortlesss melding of Victoriana (circus sounds, gas works, dank skylines) and the apocolyptic present here, held together by a superlative Dangermouse production employing warm swathes of electronica and live organic session playing. The reference points are Gorillaz' El Manana, and Blur's This Is A Low (the highpoint of the Parklife album). Imagine, also, Massive Attack channelling The Specials, David Lynch directing Radiohead. The alchemy that results is all the more impressive for its lightness of touch, a playfulness almost, that belies the undercurrents of malaise.

But a great record is not composed of soundscapes alone. There are songs here of rich melody and canny imagery under which flows a current of dislocated yearning. Pretentious this may sound, but this album seems to have mainlined the Modern Condition, the fractured experience of big city living. Like Marvin Gaye's What's Going On, it feels complete in and of itself, a statement plucked from the ether. A contemporary album, yet a timeless one.

I cannot praise this record more. Buy it. Put it on late at night as the sleet falls from the winter sky. Feel your heart expand. Give thanks for the little moments of sheer joy that take us by surprise.

And if you don't like it, well then you can just *&&%^%$!


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