Only the facts

Can you imagine how wild and frothy-mouthed the music press would go if a British group came along now who released seven-minute singles which went straight in at Number One because that seemed the easiest option, who used elements of rock, funk opera, jazz, gospel and flamenco, who were as bisexual and daffy as a knitting pattern of sloshed earthworms, who were all graduates in astrophysics but went out with dodgy boilers from EastEnders and Flake ads, and who sang about insanity, the end of the world, cats, hitmen and butterflies?

It doesn't bear thinking about. Funny thing is, Queen exist. They do. We pretend they don't, but they do. And if there was a computer somewhere that was forced to digest all the ravings and desires of music critics, all the pleas for glamour and perversion and all the yelps for bizarre, willfully eccentric musicianship, you can bet the machine would soon holler for mercy and spew out Queen as a universal panacea. (The machine, you see, would understand only the explicit, not the implicit, but brilliant as that observation is it doesn't fit my premise, so we'll pretend I haven't made it).

There is much to be said in favour of Queen. One, you can never accuse them of padding out one idea when they can fit 39 into a minute. Two, you could never accuse Freddie of worrying that he might perhaps look a trifle silly. Three, Brian May is a ridiculously gifted and versatile guitarist (this is the one I'll get the most stick for, but sit any budding guitarist down and point out some of the throwaway things May does and he'll go: "Blimey! Never noticed that! That's outrageous!")

The downside of course is that Queen are so smart they're not adverse to chucking out a bit of tosh more than occasionally, just to keep the cheques flooding in. Also there's such an excess of theatrical pyrotechnics - you'd have to play this (their seventeenth) album about 20 times to approach anything like a descriptive review - that much of it just blasts over your head, it's just Queen being Queen.

So for now - there's the single, a triumph which makes you grin from ear to ear, admit it, while blithely asking if there really is a God. You probably hadn't noticed it was about that, for a start. There's "I'm Going Slightly Mad", where Fred reckons "It's finally happened... I think I'm a banana tree. Oh dear." There's a couple of dumb heavy metal things and some (more) gloriously OTT ballads. There's a song about Freddie's cat which ends with the troupe meowing and there's a "Bijou" where May comfortably achieves everything AR Kane and Bark Psychosis feebly strive for (and probably knocked off for a caviar break halfway through).

The grand (and they Mean grand) finale is called "The Show Must Go On" (what else?) and finds Freddie crooning, "Inside my heart is breaking, my make-up may be flaking, but I'll top the bill, I'll overkill, I have to find the will to carry on..." Laugh? Sob? Queen hip? We have to give the matter some thought. This is folly-as-dignity, this is Sir Donald Bradman coming back and running rings round a thousand Kim Hughes', this is Wagner for 1991, mate.

by Stephen Walker, Juke, February 23, 1991

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