Local Wire

The Good, the Bad & the Queen

The opening track wastes no time living up to everything this latest reinvention from the desk of Damon Albarn promised — Danger Mouse pushing the post-Lee Perry echo like The Clash in Sandinista! mode, with pulsing reggae bass from The Clash's own Paul Simonon and Albarn at his soulful best on vocals. But while any number of the highlights here suggest a mash-up of their other bands' old records, there are just as many gems that leave those histories behind. Take "80's Life," whose lonely-triplet feel recalls the Righteous Brothers' "Unchained Melody" without the cheese — at least until those Beach Boys harmonies kick in to offset Albarn's aching vocal. Or the haunted English folk of Albarn's devastating "Green Fields," recycled from Marianne Faithfull's criminally underheard Before the Poison. But no matter what approach is taken on any given track, this project has the feel of true collaboration — fueled as much by Danger Mouse's echo-driven sense of atmosphere and Fela Kuti drummer Tony Allen's stick work as it is by Albarn hooking up with one of rock's most undervalued bassists for a melancholy tribute to his British homeland during wartime.
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Ed Masley