Saturday, October 28, 2017

So In-Now-In-Now-Inarticulate

Queen : Sheer Heart Attack

On October 28, 1977 Queen released News of the World, an album that must have appealed to every 13 year old boy alive. At that age we are particularly susceptible to the fascist stomp of "We Will Rock You" and the boastful chant of "We Are the Champions". As a 13 year old I found much that appealed to me, especially the album cover by Frank Kelly Freas. 

Bart Testa wrote this review for Rolling Stone.

 Queen makes elaborate music from shards of nostalgia for the British Empire. They push boys' public-school chorales and English martial music through the funnel of hard rock, aiming carefully at romantic crescendos embellished with heavy echo. Apparently, the intention is that the long-tarnished glories of "tradition" will be repolished on the band's hard pumice.

 Most of the songs on News of the World either challenge Queen's artistic enemies or endeavor to establish a vision of the new order. "We Are the Champions" ends with the line, "No time for losers, 'cause we are the champions -- of the world." It's an appropriate comment for a side that also includes "We Will Rock You," which has the atmosphere of a political rally in a Leni Riefenstahl movie and is at once a rock anthem and a commandment. "Sheer Heart Attack" makes Queen the first major band to attempt a demonstration of superiority over punk rock by marching onto its stylistic turf. It works, too, because the power trio behind vocalist Freddie Mercury is truly primitive. Once you've seen Queen onstage , away from the cut and paste of the studio, it's painfully clear that "Sheer Heart Attack" is less a matter of slumming than of warfare among equals in incompetent musicianship. 

The rest of side one uses the elaborate Led Zeppelin approach for which Queen is famous, but the songs go even further into punk sociology, reaching a peak with "Fight from the Inside," which seems nothing less than a Tory's sketch for a junta. It's sung like a slogan fired from a machine gun. This is chilling stuff, but the coldness seems to befit Queen. On side two, the group lolls through a series of songs about sexual failure (hers!), stardom and ennui as they make a mildly persuasive argument for boredom as the proper posture prior to the apocalypse. 

Late sons of the Empire though they may be, Queen has nothing to fear, or to do. In their moneyed superiority, they are indeed champions. Such are the salient fictions of which todays' Top Ten albums are made.

From Billboard:

Queen's characteristic use of grandiosity rising from a basic rock lineup drives the group's latest LP through its soundtrack-like song structure. Alternating between clear melodic piano to solid driving rock guitar force, the songs range from a strolling acoustic samba/ballad to a heavy dose of punk frenzy. Freddie Mercury's crystal operatic voice spearheads vocal contributions from the entire quartet featuring moments of rich harmonic texture. Songs of self-potential realization, youthful searching, frustration and love memories comprise the group's writing and production efforts. Best cuts: "We Are The Champions," "Sheer Heart Attack," "It's Late."

From Hamish Champ, The 100 Best-Selling Albums of the 70s

1977, the year that punk rock exploded in the UK, saw Queen produce its third blockbusting album in a row. The band's two previous "companion" albums, A Night At The Opera and A Day At The Races, had confirmed the four piece as one of the best "pomp" rock acts around, but News Of The World, which reached Number Four in the UK and the third slot in the US, took Queen to the next level, powering them to become one of the world's premier stadium acts. And what better to play in a stadium than an anthem? The album possessed two such epics, in the form of "We Will Rock You" and "We Are The Champions," both of which featured on one single released in the UK and US, hitting Numbers Two and Four respectively in these countries' charts. The single gave Elektra records their first 2,000,000 selling single, while the album spent 37 weeks in the charts.

News Of The World, despite being the band's quickest album to record, is no two-track wonder. It also contains brooding numbers such asd "Spread Your Wings" and the jazz-like "My Melancholy Blues," together with full-speed rock tracks such as "Sheer Heart Attack," seen by many fans the band's riposte to the burgeoning punk movement, which saw in Queen everything that was overblown in rock. The album cover is by the renowned sci-fi artist Frank Kelly Freas. 

 As of 2004, News Of The World was the #52 best-selling album of the 70s.

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