Any attempt to try and give this record a tonal or thematic connectivity shift when you just get a stomping rocker about killing people and showing off about it.
I guess it could be a metaphor for oh god I’m so tired do I really have to try and justify more posturing macho attitude with some obviously irrelevant analogy?
To be fair, it could just about be HIV. There’s enough about killing for love, enough about inescapability to just about stretch to it, and it would be relevant. But I find it hard to figure out just what Freddie would want to get out of presenting the life wrecking virus as a slightly sassy murderer.
Apparently Freddie started it as a piano led number, but passed it on to the band, which shifted it into the pulsing rock monster you can hear today. It has that sound, to some extent, melodically interesting and structured in a pretty Freddielike way, but shifted into a riff led stomper. I feel like we’ve seen this before.
Yeah – trouble in the East, troubled in the West
Struggle with the beast – what a thief, what a pest
Come back mother / Nuke that sucker
If I really wanted to tug at that thread, I could probably manage some kind of tenuous cold war metaphor, although I think it’s more likely he’s thinking of villain from a spy film than actually going for political analogy.
Maybe sometimes Freddie just wants to sing about a hitman because it’s fun.
I think the inconsistency of this album really is just about Freddie wanting to do as much as possible. This becomes more clear later on, but here I think we just see Freddie saying ‘let’s do a rocker’ and so they did. Hammer something out, yell some stuff. If you want the music to be aggressive, you may as well make the lyrics match.
I don’t think Queen cared much for album consistency. Perhaps resistant to concept albums and huge epic prog experiments, they just wanted to get int he studio and bang out some things that would make them happy.
This sounds very much like them doing that. Even once they switched to collective song writing officially, they stuck with the idea of just giving everyone permission to muck about, do the thing they wanted to do, make it big enough for a record, and then let rip.
This is a song about letting rip.
The guitar pulls it forward, throughout, hyperventilating in the intro along with the drums, and then setting in place a swagger that will be constantly contrasted with the faster pace. It’s almost by the numbers, lolloping forward, then slowing to build up, and providing just enough space for Freddie’s welly.
It’s hard to make it stand out, but it’s pretty damn solid. Could easily have been part of the canon if it had made it to single. Just not one of those perfect ones.
It harks back the amount it needs to, though. It feels like Queen, when it needs to.
Love me love me baby
I’ve been to the hitman school
It also manages to spear the ego of every action hero ever with the worst martial pick up attempt ever.
So it’s got that.
Queen: An Exploded Diagram is me having big and little thoughts about every Queen song in chronological order. If you want to support me, making it more financially viable and easier to explain to people at parties, please back my patreon.
Illustration by Emma.