When The Good, The Bad and The Queen - the ‘supergroup’ helmed by Damon Albarn and featuring The Clash’s Paul Simonon, The Verve’s Simon Tong and drummer Tony Allen - released their self-titled debut back in 2007, it was as a self-contained letter to London. Full of a kind of dark, Dickensian charm, it documented the city with one foot in the past and one in an altogether more sinister present; rather than the start of a new band proper, it felt like a moment in time with no real requirement for a follow-up.
Now, more than a decade later, the quartet return with ‘Merrie Land’. Extending their eye from the capital out to Brexit Britain as a whole, there’s little question as to why they’ve chosen now to make their next move. The way they tackle it, however, often feels too foggy and nostalgic for a reality that’s very dark and very present. Damon’s stream-of-consciousness vocals slide over sad, haunted fairground backing - snippets of social commentary (“Are we green, are we pleasant? / We are not either of those, Father,” goes the title track) occasionally poking out of the amble. There are moments of beauty (the elegiac ‘Lady Boston’ in particular), but the overall effect is of the singer looking out of a rainy window and scrawling his findings into a diary: an interesting exercise but one lacking some of the punch the weighty topic demands.