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LPs from the Attic: Queen — News of the World

June 7, 2010
Queen's News of the World

It was the DNA that made me this way. Do you know how I feel?

Queen — News of the World (Hollywood Records, 1977)
Queen tries to be all things for all people on 1977’s News of the World. They leave few stylistic stones unturned, providing as many chest-thumping anthems (“We Will Rock You”), underdog rallying-cries (“We Are The Champions”), blues work-outs (“Sleeping on the Sidewalk”), and Flamenco-inspired toe-tappers (“Who Needs You”) that a young music fan could ask for. Wait, what?

Indeed, while it draws from some different sources than Led Zeppelin’s Physical Graffiti, News of the World shares that’s albums sense of expansiveness, attentiveness to detail, and balance between bombast and balladry.

Taking a look at several of the standout tracks:

  • “Sheer Heart Attack” blasts credible punk but gives away its “dinosaur rocker” pedigree only by the depth of its production.
  • Gloriously campy sing-along “Spread Your Wings” seems like it was custom-made for an old BBC sitcom. Maybe a Cheers-style laugher called “The Emerald Bar”?
  • Prince may have taken a cue or two, and Trent Reznor of NIN certainly did when it comes to the raunchy thump of “Get Down Make Love.” The latter covered the track and took particular joy in drawing every last bit of coldly sexual tension in the already distortion-heavy chorus.
  • “Sleeping on the Sidewalk” is either a sturdy tribute to Texas-style blues rock or a subtle jab at ZZ Top. Either way, it’s a fine track with some slick soloing from Brian May.
  • The quiet/loud dynamics of “It’s Late” formed a template for many bad bands to write bad ballads from. But in Queen’s hands, you get a dramatic, stirring love song with tight, compelling composition.

If you think Queen’s appeal was defined by the first two tracks on News (or even “Bohemian Rhapsody”), you’ve probably suffered at the hands of unimaginative radio programmers. Queen shows artistic dexterity, humour, and a sort of hard-charging-yet-playful aggressiveness throughout this album with only a brief lull or two. As such, it ranks among their most consistently engaging, if not thematically coherent.

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