|The Good, the Bad & the Queen — Merrie Land (16 Nov., 2018)
The Good, the Bad & the Queen — Merrie Land (16 Nov., 2018)✹ Budeme si postupně vyprávět příběhy, aby nám čas lépe ubíhal?
✹ Albarn, Simonon, Allen a Tong končí jedenáctiletou nepřítomnost mrštnou reflexí na zraněném národě.
✹ Jsme požádáni, abychom se podívali na zem a lidi kolem nás, jako to udělal Geoffrey Chaucer v letech 1343 ~1400, jak to učinil Blur v devadesátých letech, a snažili se pochopit lidskou společnost. Brexit je na cestě a Albarn hledá odpovědi. Damon Albarn a jeho spolupracovníci v supermjuzik se vracejí k diskusi o Británii a brexitu s tak divokým pohledem a lyrickým čarodějnictvím, jaký jsme od alba “Parklife” ještě neviděli neslyšeli. Bohaté a dokonalé; krásně zahrané a bezvadně konceptualizované. Albarnův nejnovější výlet z FitzRoy k Faerským ostrovům a zpět, přes Dogger a Dover, je mrholícím smáčením až na kost a opakovaným vyždímaním do sucho~sucha, hlubokým ponorem do frakturované země a zlomených lidí. Jeden z tichých vrcholů roku. Still waters run deep.
✹ “Gun to the Head” nabývá průzračného anglického folku s chytlavým motivem dřevěné flétny, ale pod jeho bukolickou kvalitou je něco daleko víc, než jen idylické..., spíše zde už něco slabounce vře. Na flétnu jsou spojeny vrstvy naléhavého a přitom rozmarného klavíru, strun a zlomených beatů, které vyvrcholily kakofonií klouzajících strun, které se původně zrodily z mozků The Beatles “A Day in the Life”. Je to geniální kus singer~songwriterství. Merrie Land je přes nekonečnou dobu šera, melancholie, smutku, trudnomyslnosti, tmy, zádumčivosti, pochmurné nálady zábavným a divadelním albem s vokály, které zachycují společenské pozorování předešlého alba Parklife. Je to také neuvěřitelně chytrý výkon slovních obrazů, nikdy se nespoléhající na texty samotné, se schopností odrážet pocit úzkosti. Rozptýlené beaty a drobné, chromaticky sestupné melodie dodávají neklidné napětí k pasážím a nikde mocněji než v strašidelné písni “The Great Fire”. Introspektivní, vybrnkávaná “Ribbons” se svými truchlícími hoboji, odkapávající infúzí melancholické krásy. Dokonce i Elisa Bray z Independent je názoru, že „určitě nebudeme mít album, které by našim neuspořádaným, nestálým, nervózním, nestabilním, nejistým, nevyrovnaným, neusazeným, zneklidněným časům umožnilo zachytit víc vznešenosti.“
✹ The supergroup — which is comprised of Albarn, The Clash’s Paul Simonon, The Verve’s Simon Tong and Fela Kuti drummer Tony Allen.
✹ ““The Last Man To Leave” will be the most talked about song here. A fairground melody and camp spoken word fretting rant about life on this island, it’s evocative, weird, playful, full of fascinating rambles that sound like nothing Albarn has penned before. And that’s Merrie Land in a sentence. In a week where Brexit appeared to stumble toward some sort of rotten conclusion, it’s apt that the first entire album about the referendum and its repercussions is released. Because, as with Parklife, when Albarn writes about England something magical happens, even when there’s very little magic to be found.” — JONATHAN DEAN
Location: London, UK
Genre: Rock, Folk, Avant~Garde, World & Country
Format: Vinyl, LP, Album, Limited Edition, Green, 180g
✹ Studio 13
✹ Penrhyn Castle And National Trust
Album release: 16 November 2018
Record Label: Studio 13
01. Introduction 0:13
02. Merrie Land 4:46
03. Gun to the Head 4:19
04. Nineteen Seventeen 3:43
05. The Great Fire 3:56
06. Lady Boston 4:20
07. Drifters & Trawlers 2:35
08. The Truce of Twilight 4:23
09. Ribbons 2:52
10. The Last Man to Leave 2:38
11. The Poison Tree 3:43
℗ 2018 Studio 13
✹ Damon Albarn: Vocals, Organ [Lowery Organ] + [Farfisa/The Truce Of Twilight], Piano, Mellotron, Percussion, Synthesizer [Arp Quartet/The Great Fire], Theremin/Nineteen Seventeen, Recorder/Gun To The Head
✹ Paul Simonon: Bass, [Additional Vocals], Percussion
✹ Gareth Humphreys: Bassoon
✹ Isabelle Dunn: Cello
✹ Kate St. John: Cor Anglais, Oboe
✹ Tony Allen: Drums
✹ Simon Tong: Guitar
✹ The Demon Strings: Strings
✹ Stella Page: Viola
✹ Antonia Pagulatos, Kotono Sato: Violin
✹ Owain Arwel Davies: Arranged By [Choir Arrangements], Score, Conductor
✹ Gerry Diver: Tin Whistle
✹ Keith Floyd: Vocals [Sample Of Floyd On Hangovers]
✹ Tony Visconti: Producer, [Additional Vocals/Gun To The Head], Recorder/Drifters & Trawlers.
✹ Michael “Bammi” Rose: Saxophone
✹ Lucas Petter: Trombone
✹ Tan Tan: Trumpet
✹ Robert Gordon McHarg III: Art Direction
✹ Théodore Géricault: Artwork [The Piper Lithograph]
✹ Stuart Lowbridge: Coordinator [Live Music Coordination]
✹ Paul Simonon: Creative Director, Artwork
✹ Noah Booth, Samuel Egglenton: Engineer [Assistant]
✹ JD: Lacquer Cut
✹ Chris Musto: Layout [Digital Layout]
✹ Damon Albarn: Lyrics
✹ Eleven Management: Management
✹ John Davis: Mastered
✹ Stephen Sedgwick: Mixed, Engineer
✹ Herbert Mason: Photography [Front And Back Cover]
✹ Michael Redgrave: Photography [Cover]
✹ Sessions for Merrie Land started in January 2017, when Albarn, Simonon and Tong spent time in Blackpool, which was originally to be the entire focus of the album. Albarn expanded the focus of the album over the next two years while also touring with Gorillaz for Humanz and The Now Now.
✹ In the wake of the EU Referendum, Damon Albarn decided to travel around Britain to get a sense of a nation plunged into dramatic change. After reconvening with his The Good, the Bad & the Queen bandmates — Paul Simonon, Tony Allen, and Simon Tong — those meditative journeys fed into their second album, Merrie Land. It’s an impressionistic portrait of a conflicted, confused land, with funfair organs, choirs, and tugging melodies folded into eerie but beautiful blends of folk, dub, and pop. Albarn talks Apple Music through his pilgrimage and the “strange emotions” that inform the album.
EN Q: It’s hard not to feel real sadness listening to this record. Is that the point?
✹ I think so, maybe, but I think it’s, if you could call something this, a beautiful sadness. I don’t know what that kind of means.
EN Q: On the title track, you sing, “This is not rhetoric/It comes from my heart/I love this country.” This record is trying to not be angry or bitter or take sides, right?
✹ No, no, no, I’m not trying to break the family up. I’m trying to be honest and deal with those strange emotions, like love of place. Even though I’ve traveled, it’s fair to say, around the whole world, I always come back home. What’s driven me as a creative person to explore other climes and cultures is what I grew up with in this country. That was what’s special about this country: the sense of openness. That’s what we’re missing with all this hastiness to get stuff done because we decided we had to get it done by this point. That’s all I feel.
EN Q: You visited various parts of Britain to get a sense of the nation, going beyond the big cities to towns, including ones from British folk tales such as Banbury. Is this record your pilgrimage?
✹ I’d never been to St. Albans or Luton or Banbury. I hadn’t even really been to Oxford. There were things I was very aware of — big cultural landmarks — that I’d never visited. So, in that sense, pilgrimage is a good description. I found ghosts everywhere. Merrie Land is a ghostly record. You just have to tune into the dissonance and the resonance in each place and work from there, especially if we’re going to try and give an impression.
EN Q: The songs take us from train rides past World War I cemeteries in France to heavy nights in Blackpool pubs. You’ve packed a lot in here.
✹ Yeah! I’ve never written so many lyrics, so that was a breakthrough for me. It’s something I’d like to explore — more words. I suppose it goes back to Jack Kerouac. Back to Betjeman on the train, it’s got a strong sense of kinship with that, and people like Patrick Hamilton and George Orwell.
EN Q: Three weeks before the release of Merrie Land you were still on tour with Gorillaz. How easy is it to switch between bands?
✹ I just love making music, so it’s not that difficult. I had a strange four days: I finished the massive, euphoric gig in Mexico City [with Gorillaz] and then came back to a little room [in the UK] to rehearse for eight hours and go on national television. The only thing I regret is that we didn’t have a “work in progress” sign hanging over the microphone stand. Or cones and tape round us. We should’ve been wearing hi~vis jackets: “We haven’t quite built this place yet, but we’re definitely working at it.”
Michael Hann, Fri 16 Nov 2018 10.00 GMT. Score: ***
✹ Damon Albarn’s scattergun sketch of Britain.
✹ According to the official bumf accompanying the second album from Damon Albarn’s multigenerational supergroup, Merrie Land is “a beautiful and hopeful paean to the England of today”. Drummer Tony Allen told the Guardian last week that it’s an album people can dance to. Both sentiments might surprise those picking up the record: the cover features an image of a terrified Michael Redgrave in Dead of Night, a film in which he plays a ventriloquist taken over by his dummy, and the musical mood of much of the album is a dense, unsettled fug: slightly paranoid, rather unfocused. The combined presence of Albarn’s organ and flattened voice, Paul Simonon’s dubby bass, and occasional horns gives songs such as Nineteen Seventeen and The Truce of Twilight something of the mood of the Specials’ Ghost Town, but without that song’s almost hallucinatory clarity. You feel as if you — and the band — are groping for melodies that are almost there but never quite materialise out of the mist.
✹ One might argue that this dislocated, discombobulated mood is wholly appropriate for an album clearly intended as a state~of~the~nation address. It’s also worth wondering whether a 50~year~old millionaire pop star is the best person to sum up the state of the nation. For all that the album was apparently inspired by Albarn travelling around the country “watching, listening” to ordinary Britons, you don’t get the sense of any real~life Britain so much as a succession of images you might get from an evening flicking through Channels 4 and 5: rowdy dogs kept on leads, “narcotics sold in Boots”, altercations on the B~road, alcoholism in Preston station, manicured lawns of an England barricaded in the 50s. There’s some lovely writing, but it never resolves into anything concrete. It’s not helped by the fact that, for all the cleverness and richness of the musical textures, there aren’t a lot of actual tunes.
✹ Two moments of brilliance shine out, though: the title track, on which Albarn comes closest to directness, to offering a point of view. And the closing track, The Poison Tree, where a gorgeous, melancholy, widescreen melody swims into view and all the promises about this being an album of modern English folk music suddenly, briefly come true. ✹ https://www.theguardian.com/
Words: Gareth James, Score: 8/10
✹ Most stirring is ‘Lady Boston’, which sits at the midpoint of ‘Merrie Land’ and hails from Penrhyn Castle near Bangor. Its concluding refrain of “Dwi wrth dy gefn”, sung by Penrhyn’s own male voice choir, is Welsh for ‘I’ve got your back’. It’s a rousing reminder of the power of community from an occasional quartet that offers a compelling advert for collaboration. We may not hear from them often, but The Good, The Bad & The Queen are a rare treat and an unlikely, unusual and, at times, unsettling proposition. Albarn on Britain is a proven formula, but Simonon, Allen and Simon Tong combine to craft curious twenty~first century folk about curious twenty~first century folk. (excerpt)
|The Good, the Bad & the Queen — Merrie Land (16 Nov., 2018)