Monday, January 22, 2007

Album Review: News of the World

I recently picked up News of the World, by Queen. This was my favourite Queen album when I was a teenager, and listening to it reminded me of why - it is the heaviest Queen album. This is a drawback to others, but I like it when Queen kicks back and kicks ass. It may help when evaluating the album to realize that this was Queen's reaction to the punk movement and their criticism of lavish excess of bands like Queen, Led Zeppelin and Yes.

The Good:

From a technical standpoint, this is the best Queen has ever been. It features their cleanest production and their tightest playing - they have never sounded so good. Brian May found a unique guitar sound that he never duplicated on any other album. In fact, this is a Brian May album - I have no idea what Freddie was doing when this was written/recorded. We Will Rock You crunches, We Are the Champions soars, Sheer Heart Attack is like a buzzsaw in your ear outpunking the punk movement, John Deacon steps out on electric piano on the gorgeous Spread Your Wings, and Queen's harmonies are finally released on the epic It's Late. It all finishes with your ears bleeding, and then the perfectly appropriate My Melancholy Blues finishes the album. One can just picture Freddie sitting at a piano in some empty ballroon with spilled champagne glasses and soild table cloths as he rings down the curtain. Oh, did I mention the guitar just crunches?

The Bad:

Where is Freddie? Fans of Day at the Races/Night at the Opera silly stuff will not find any Seaside Rendezvous, Millionaire Waltz, Somebody to Love or Love of My Life. Champions is solid, Melancholy Blues is lovely, but the only other tune he wrote is the bizarre Get Down Make Love, which could safely have been left off the album. Half the songs are sung by Taylor or May. The album is front loaded - after the four hit songs, you have to sit through very mediocre songwriting until album end. Queen stripped down their harmonies so much that they are only in evidence on two songs. You expect more from Queen than just a solid rock album.

The Interesting:

It's Late is the first in a series of songs that Brian uses to explore his crumbling marriage, culminating in Love Token on his Back to the Light Album. Freddie's chord progressions on My Melancholy Blues get taken to a new level on the next album with the superior Don't Stop Me Now.

The Bottom Line:

I like this album - it rocks (I'm a May fan). Clare finds it a bit boring (she's a Mercury fan). Borrow it from her and decide for yourself.

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