Sunday, July 17, 2005

Her Majesty

Inexplicable to some, but yes, I grew up (as a suburban white New Jersey kid no less) without ever owning a Queen album. I went through phases with pretty much every classic rock icon but them. Of course, I knew all the hits. But I never really went beyond that.

So I just got A Night at the Opera, partly because of my obsession with the Kleptones' A Night at the Hip-Hopera, which for my money is one of the best albums of 2004. I think one of the things that fascinates me about Queen, and makes them more interesting to me now that I've hit my mid-thirties, is their over-the-top bombast, their willingness to take a ridiculous idea and push it to whatever extreme suits their fancy. So refreshing compared to the Dungeons & Dragons self-serious crap of Led Zeppelin (for instance).

Opera is not a perfect album, but it's a damned good one. Specifically, its strengths ("Death on Two Legs," "Sweet Lady," and the still drop-dead-gorgeous-after-all-these-years (Wayne's World notwithstanding) "Bohemian Rhapsody") vastly outweigh its weaknesses ("I'm in Love With My Car," and (don't hate me for this) "You're My Best Friend"). I never knew the band went in for the McCartney-esque pseudo-old-timey British music hall stuff (e.g., "Lazing on a Sunday Afternoon" and "Good Company"); those are fun, but skippable too. Of course, the real point of the album may not be the songs, but the performances (Freddy Mercury and Brian May in particular) and the arrangements / production.

There's always something more to hear.

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