The Good, The Bad & The Queen isn't a band. It's more of a project, featuring Blur frontman Damon Albarn, The Clash bassist Paul Simonon, Afrobeat pioneer and drummer Tony Allen and former Verve guitarist Simon Tong. Together the quartet is making some of the smartest and catchiest — if moodiest — Britpop and rock to reach the U.S. in years. Hear the group recorded live in concert from Washington, D.C.'s 9:30 Club.
The Good, The Bad & The Queen got its start in Lagos, Nigeria in 2004, when Albarn, Tong and Allen entered the studio with local musicians to write and record an album's worth of material. The project was put on hold when Damon had to return to England to finish producing the album Demon Days by Gorillaz.
Albarn later gave the Nigeria recordings to producer Brian Burton (Danger Mouse), but found his feelings on the project had changed. "I just felt that record didn't really need me on it," says Albarn. "I'll still use the songs but I'm not going to sing them. When Brian came on board it really started to become, The Good, The Bad and The Queen; I started writing about this area — West London — and coming to define here and why I think it's such a special place to live."
Albarn, Tong and Allen eventually brought on The Clash bassist Paul Simonon. After The Clash, Simonon had focused on painting, not music. But he found it easy to return to the studio. "I came down to listen to two tracks, and I could hear a bassline for it immediately," he says. "So we thought 'give it a go' and started from scratch. We made a whole new record."
The group finished recording by the summer of 2006. The end result was an album that deftly blends African rhythms with reggae, dub, Britpop and punk, while offering a heartfelt tribute to the place the band calls home.
"It's a series of letters and historical stories and moments in time," says Albarn. "It's not a nostalgic play on Englishness. It's more about what I think it is to be English now. I think we've made a record that has quite a fresh approach to this part of London."