Super-groups are supposed to be masturbatory, unnecessary and ultimately disappointing. What they're not supposed to be is restrained and subtle, especially when they're led by an egomaniacal shape-shifter like Blur's Damon Albarn and feature an aging punk legend like the Clash's Paul Simonon. In this regard, The Good, the Bad and the Queen--which is rounded out by former Verve guitarist Simon Tong and the late Fela Kuti's drummer Tony Allen--defy expectations. All things considered, their self-titled debut is a surprisingly subdued affair, which is both its greatest strength and fatal flaw.
The opener "History Song," immediately sets the mood for the rest of the album. The song's quiet acoustic guitar and morose lyrics slowly establish a groove before gently fading away, just when they sound like they were about to go somewhere. The rest of the album follows suit as Albarn and company craft strikingly world-weary songs that sound like they should be coming from a bombed-out circus in the late 1800s.
Despite the unique aesthetic, it can also be downright dreary. The songs' similar tempo, drowsy vocals and anti-war lyrics easily drag into each other, making listening to the album from start to finish a bit of a chore. It's also hard not to feel like the band is selling itself short. While Albarn and Simonon are showcased adequately, Tong and Allen's immense skills are never given a chance to properly shine.
Despite these complaints, the album is an intriguing piece of work. Though not his greatest output, it's easily the most cohesive project Albarn has been involved with in a decade. The album is also worth a couple listens if only to hear a bunch of terribly talented individuals willfully reign themselves in.