"Well, that's weird, right?" Damon Albarn says. Six days ago he was in Mexico City and played with Gorillaz. Well, he and his bandmates in Good, the Bad & the Queen are in Kent and take turns explaining to explain their second album in an American snack bar next to the Maidstone Studio, where they'll perform with Jools Holland on Later ….
The seats are made of red faux leather and pictures of Stevie Wonder from the 1980s, Hotter Than July, a Ford truck and a sign of the Route 66. And in the bright light Albarn speaks during a vegetarian dinner in a Styrofoam box on things that feel as if they have no place at all here: English folk myths; the north of the coastal towns of England; Background of his family in Lincolnshire, Nottinghamshire and Yorkshire – and especially Brexit. Almost 25 years ago, he describes the new album as "the next edition of Parklife. Just as Parklife is one world, this is another world. Not quite the real world, but not very far from it. "
Merrie Land comes almost 12 years after his predecessor. Like this album, this album was created by Albarn, former Clash bassist Paul Simonon, groundbreaking Nigerian drummer Tony Allen, and guitarist / keyboarder Simon Tong (Verve's End). After that, the similarities end. To illustrate the openness and diversity Albarn believes Brexit is endangered, the new album has a broader musical palette. Not for nothing did Simonon call Merrie Land a work of "modern English folk music with a little rub-a-dub".
"This time, people can dance," says Allen, a youthful 78-year-old, with the slightest confidence that he has been making breathtakingly original music since the 1960s. "Even without getting up, they can move their bodies to music. Everything is in there. At the first panel, people asked, "Tony Allen – what the hell is this? you are you doing on this album? We do not hear you. "Nobody will ask me this time. You can hear me on every track. "
The biggest change, however, lies in the theme of the album. The first record showed the murky, bohemian parts of Albarn and Simonon's western London homeland. To evoke the confused confusion of Brexit, Merrie Land extends its focus beyond the capital and has an even sharper sense of place. There are times when Albarn uses his usual preference for dealing with mood and texture, rather than lyrical peculiarities, and clearly expresses his opinion.
The title track is a perfect example of the fact that the political texts are clearer than Albarn has ever written before. One of the most vocal passages questions the strange alliance between a number of Brexit working-class constituents and the privately-educated opportunists who call themselves their leaders: "They've worked together / put the money in the pockets / the few and their assets / who (pushes the school benches / And scorns all of us because they are not interested in us / They are without mercy and you should not be with them. "
He does not understand why so many people seem to be with them. "That's what I'm really mad about," he says. "But because my family is from the North, and I grew up in Essex in the 1980s, I also have a great affinity for them.
"But that" – he means Brexit – "is wrong, Jacob Rees-Mogg and the people of Blackpool should never be together, unless Jacob Rees-Mogg is ready to go to Blackpool on a Saturday night and a damn great time to have. "
The result of the referendum was heard a few hours before Albarn and the orchestra of the Syrian musicians in Glastonbury 2016. "We had prepared this great feat and none of the Syrians really understood why many of us were so upset and shocked," he says. "If I had any idea that we would become the way we were – before and after – I would definitely have come back much earlier, if you know what I mean. As a person who loves her country, I would have expressed a very strong opinion. In the public."
Does he regret not having done that? "Well, I had no idea. I do not know if I should tell you this. It's too political … "He mentions Ian Birrell, the journalist who briefly worked as David Cameron's speechwriter. He and Albarn co-founded Africa Express, an organization that aims to break down cultural barriers by bringing together musicians from different countries. "He wrote a text message to Cameron on Thursday [the day of the vote]Only at the airport before we flew to Bristol to say, "What do you think will happen?" And the text came back: "It will be fine."
"I imagine there were some people who were surprised. It was very strange. Strange times. And from that point on, I've been thinking about how to express my feelings about it. "
Some of Merrie Land's most important songs began to connect in Blackpool, where 67.5% of voters supported Brexit. "The day after the referendum, I realized that I was … guilty of going in different directions," Albarn explains. "I played the big cities in England, and that's what you get involved in. But I wanted to understand how this abyss had opened in the center of our culture. And Blackpool may have fascinated me since my time with Blur. It was partly about memory: the pictures of everyone who was beautifully dressed and hung in the sand. And the modern Blackpool. Hedonism. The families who take care of the pillars are still trying to give it a try. The tower is sturdy and magnificent. You can also join the country's anti-fracking campaign, which is not far away. It's just a whole musical terrain. "
Albarn, Simonon and Tong worked on new material for a week in January 2017. The album was to focus on Blackpool, but became more extensive when Albarn began an on-off odyssey across the country, which led Gorillaz on tour for two years. "I was observe"Listen, listen, just pick up everything like a good wine," he laughs. "I went to St Albans, I went to Banbury, Oxford and Luton, Liverpool, Southend. had a cup of tea somewhere or went to a pub I did not interview people: I was on those quiet, meditative pilgrimages to cities I've never been to to learn more about where I came from. "
The music they have written reveals no end to the ghosting: off-key pianos, bass recorders, a wealth of old-school organs immediately reminiscent of the British coast. A song called Lady Boston has the liveliest feeling of pushing the record from England to Wales. It was inspired by Albarn's visit to Penrhyn Castle near Bangor, a Victorian mansion built with the legacy of slavery in Jamaica. The band returned there to record the finished song, which sang a Welsh chorus from the Penrhyn male choir: "Dwi wrth dy gefn"Which is roughly translated as:" I have your back. "
"It feels like," We depend on each other, "says Albarn." We live on this small, hopeless island and need to talk, but have not we been around in circles for the past few years, as Danny Dyer said? a great puzzle, or you could say it's an Angelsaxistentialist crisis. "
What does he mean? "I recently reviewed everything and found a front page of the Britpop era sun. I wrote something about this in Biro when I did Parklife: "Angelsaxistentalism". I thought, "That's weird – that's what I'm talking about now." In the most blatant form, we say we want our country back. But you need to know what your country is before you want it back. And that includes understanding who we are. We are Vikings. We are Anglo-Saxons. We are French, Belgian, Nigerian, Caribbean, Ghanian, Somali, Pakistani. To say, "We are just that," seems ridiculous to me. That's all. That's my biggest problem with [Brexit]Do not confine yourself, boys. I do not think we can afford this attitude. We have to look very outside. "
He returns to Blackpool or to another location. "That's why we have all these pillars. This is a kind of metaphor for trying to enter the world. "
For Simonon, Brexit fits in with his family background, which is diverse in the Belgian city of Liège, Nice and Whitby – and many of the popular instincts that led to the referendum result are at odds with the band he used to cut his teeth Has. In the clash documentary Westway to the World, written 18 years ago, Joe Strummer offered a shortened version of what they stood for: "We were not small Englishmen. At least we had the courage to accept what was presented to us: the world in all its weird variations. "
"That was a while ago, was not it?" Simonon says with a grim laugh. "People are grown – or forgotten. I recently said to someone, "If the refugees or immigrants had not come here and people came by invitation, there would be a strong element of the conflict that did not exist." This album is called Merrie Land, which is one Art allusion to the nostalgic, sentimental vision of the people of England is. And it never really existed. "
So what should we do when the hour of Brexit approaches? When I ask Albarn how he feels during a second referendum, he says: "The question was not right at all. It should have read: "Who are we and who do we want to be?" We started to have this conversation. It's complicated, but there are no easy answers. "He says he will vote for Labor in the next election." But that does not mean that I agree with everything they stand for. I would vote for maintaining the widest possible dialogue with our neighbors. "
And a little later, he offers the following: "On certain days, I just want to go to Parliament Square with a handmade poster and say," What are you doing? "Because I do not know what they are doing. I do not know why they think this is such a good idea – for the England I love and why this will be a good thing for us culture. It's really King Arthur stuff, "he says, pulling mimes off a large object. "The poster of the stone! Oh man …"
The key is that in the midst of an endless Brexit cacophony, he knows he has something important to do, and when it's outside the binary language of politics, that's half the story. "I want to add another voice," says Albarn. "And I will do it with my music." "And with this band."
• Merrie Land will be released in Studio 13 on November 16th