IT WAS inevitable that Damon Albarn would eventually write a concept album inspired by Brexit. He’s been chronicling the vicissitudes of The British Experience since Blur’s Modern Life is Rubbish album in 1993, so he was never going to ignore such a calamitously nation-changing event.
The Good, the Bad & The Queen, SWG3, Glasgow ****
With Blur on extended hiatus, it made sense to reunite his alt-pop supergroup The Good, The Bad & the Queen. Released in 2007, their self-titled debut album was a song cycle about London. Their belated follow-up, Merrie Land, encompasses the fragile fate of Britain as a whole.
Albarn’s accomplices are bassist Paul Simonon, formerly of the Clash, ex-Verve guitarist Simon Tong, and virtuoso drummer and Afrobeat pioneer Tony Allen. An eclectic line-up, but the music they make basically sounds like Blur in their Kinks, Madness and Specials-influenced phase.
That’s no bad thing. They excel at stirring a sinister fog of minor-key drama and weary tenderness. One minute they sound like a seedy Soho brothel – an atmosphere abetted by the old-fashioned red-bulb table lamps which adorned the stage – the next a lonely seaside carousel.
They performed Merrie Land in its entirety, followed by an encore of songs from their debut. Despite the sombre subject matter, Albarn – a natural showman – was in high-kicking spirits. Who says the end of Britain as we know it has to be depressing?
I left feeling pessimistic yet entertained and defiant. You can’t ask for a more British inner conflict than that.