Labeled as the coolest guy in The Clash, although he shareed the stage with Joe Strummer and Mick Jones, clearly makes Paul Simonon “The Fonze” of rock. Oddly, we haven’t heard much from the bass smashing London Calling cover-man in the last decade or so. Take Damon Albarn, who seems to have a continually broad musical vision. He’s spent the better part of a decade fronting Blur, but now having made Gorrilaz the coolest cartoon band, he’s accomplished arguably more with his “side projects” than in his 90’s battles with Oasis. Albarn’s latest project, The Good, The Bad & The Queen, has him reuniting with Gorillaz producer Danger Mouse in a bold experiment featuring Simonon (bass), Verve guitarist Simon Tong and Africa 70 drummer Tony Allen.
Two words best describe the quartet’s sound – groove and hook. Albarn’s tinkery piano chops, combined with his suave British crooning, joined at the hip with Simonon’s dub bass lines, make The Good, The Bad & The Queen an identifiable weapon. The doo-woppy “80s’s Life,” combines the modern mystery of TV on the Radio with the pop accessibility of the Gorillaz, while the catchy ”The Northern Whale” is a “feel good” dance hit. Although Allen’s drumming is often lost in the mix in favor of Albarn’s up-front vocals, there is still enough groove to catch onto. The tinkering piano of “King of Doom,” and the pronounced “Herculean,” evolves with surreal effects that cause for a standing ovation. Perhaps this self-titled debut is an art-rock soundtrack for a well deserving film title – The Good, The Bad & The Queen. Whatever this project may lead to, just don’t call it a super-group.