Just shy of 40, Blur/Gorillaz vocalist Damon Albarn has ticked most of the boxes of middle-age rock star cliches: He’s done film scores (“Ravenous”), got “down” with ethnic music (2002’s “Mali Music”) and he’s flirted with politics (he’s a prominent antiwar activist). The Good, The Bad and The Queen are another rock cliche — the supergroup.
But this self-titled debut is no exercise in celebrity backslapping. Featuring former Fela Kuti drummer Tony Allen, Paul Simonon (once of The Clash) on bass and one-time Verve guitarist Simon Tong, the album takes the world-weary melancholia that pervaded much of Blur’s “Think Tank” (2003) and lays it over slowed-down grooves and reverb-heavy guitar. The result is a dark and understated album that is the most emotionally affecting of Albarn’s career.
For all the big names on display, the vocals, melodies and Anglocentric lyrics (such as references to the welfare state on first single “Herculean”) marks the band as Albarn’s from the outset, although producer Danger Mouse (of Gnarls Barkley fame) makes his presence felt with low-key electro backdrops on most of the tracks. But the highlights are where all the members cut loose, such as Allen and Simonon’s finest moment, “Three Changes,” and the final psychedelic freakout that closes the title track.
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