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Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Volume 39, Issue 3. 15th March [1976]

Queen Review

Queen Review

Queen present us with their night at the opera; an apparent take-off of every musical style from Gilbert and Sullivan and twenties-revival to folk and acid rock. Their tongue is always in somebody or other's cheek, but however much the listener may jump up and down in frustration, Queen remain passionless, aloof, inscrutable.

This album could be many things - revolting, tinny, plagiaristic, but most of the time its not. You can't even call it a take-off because it rises above that and stands as music in its own right.

We start with an all-purpose curse 'Death on two legs. Dedicated to....' which has some lines worth mentioning.

'was the fin on the back part of the deal? (Shark!)'


'You're a sewer-pit decaying in a cesspool of pride

Should be made unemployed Then make yourself null and void'

On the surface its like a schoolboy's written exercise that has all the right elements, but lacks the essential spirit. Underneath, its a lot more than this. Queen present it as a statement in its own right that's neither serious nor a take-off.

The same applies to I'm in Love with my car' - a theme that has been done before but never quite like this. Its helped by some beautifully atrocious lyrics:

'Told my girl just had to forget her, rather buy me a new carburettor'

There are parts of this album, particularly some of Freddie Mercury's vocal harmonies, that really send shivers down my spine. 'You're my best friend' has some terrible lyrics, but I do like the shivers, and what a name for a love song!

Now a folk-rock song about soldiers going across the sea to war; '39'. I defy you to find any humourous bits in this one. Yet it should be an awful plagiarism of Lindisfarne, but its not.

Because its an opera, the revolting clichés are repeated as a leitmotif in 'Sweet Lady':

'You call me sweet like I'm some kind of cheese

Waiting on the shelf You eat me up'

It's Queen's fond boast that they use no synthesizers. This gives their music a clarity and briskness and leads to some imaginative instrumentation. Brian May's harp on 'Love of my Love' gives the song a really beautiful touch. His 'genuine Aloha ukelele (made in Japan)' gives 'Good Company' an equally distinctive backing. And of course I mentioned Freddie Mercury's sensuous vocals - you probably remember that bit from 'Bohemian Rhapsody' that gives 'Mama, oo/Don't mean to make you cry'.

But even good things can be taken too far. Queen sometimes get carried away, for example, in 'The Prophets Song' where the same vocals are used to excess. Like most of this album, this song is a variation on an old theme, but it lacks the imagination of some of the other tracks. The same applies to Queen's attempts at social comment:

'All my friends by a year by and by disappeared but we're safe enough behind our door'

Haven't I heard that somewhere before?

However, mostly Queen's sheer bravado carries the album above such doldrums.