Tie your mother down

Mother

Ignoring the anthem, we last ended with a gong, and so do we begin.

The intro’s worthy, but it descends back into Brian’s creepy schoolyard sexuality.

Tie your mother down.

The album opens in a hell of a style, with a gong, some enormously melodramatic guitar, and a reversed harmonium set of Shepard tones. Between the gong harking back to the Rhapsody, the guitar being ripped out of one later track, and the harmonium being repeated at the close of the album, the whole intro is basically a set of allusions and foreshadowing. Which is quite nice. It feels like a big blast of an album opener. The ritual of Queen II’s procession, combined with the self-referentiality of Brighton Rock’s seaside sing song, and something of A Night at the Opera’s immensity.

But, well, it’s not as immense, isn’t it.

Partly from the branding, it’s hard not to situate the album as a sibling to A Night at the Opera, but the comparison is pretty damaging. Despite the highlights here, there album just doesn’t push as hard, and so feels like it falls short. This is one of those critical cruelties, I suspect, as most over albums can’t touch the scope, bombast and technique of A Night at the Opera. But…well…most albums aren’t the sequel.

Once the intro fades, we descend into a thoroughly solid, but ultimately pretty dull hard rock blues number.

It doesn’t even manage to be creepy in the way that the title implies, it’s just a classic inversion of ‘lock up your daughters’, heaped up with an unpleasant sexualisation of youth.

Get your party gown

Get your pigtail down

Get your heart beatin’ baby

Got my timin’ right

Got my act all tight

It’s gotta be tonight my little

School babe

Creepy as fuck. Frankly.

Apparently Brian wrote it in Tenerife, while working on his PhD. Which explains the let down after the gloriously imaginative likes of ’39. This is a blast from the past. A riff and a working title, that accidentally stuck. It doesn’t make it sound any less unsettling though. I guess it’s what you expect from the era, almost as if it could be a parody of their less imaginative contemporaries (the song is not entirely recognisably Queen, and could have easily been many of their less adventurous peers). But frankly, it just sounds less imaginative.

Lyrically, the main redeeming feature is the snapshot of ‘nice guy’ mentality provided in the last verse:

Your Mamma and your Daddy gonna

Plague me til I die

Why can’t they understand I’m just a

Peace lovin’ guy

I don’t think it’s the peace they’re worried about you loving, Bri. Take the fedora off and pull yourself together.

It’s got a heady thump of guitar and a catchy hook. Even when Freddie feels like he’s phoning it in a bit, he sounds more energetic than most people manage at their peak, so there is that.

And in a surprising moment of charm, the liner notes appear to acknowledge the cheapness of the whole thing with a quote from the Times as an epigram to this song:

“Sheer bloody poetry”

I guess at least they knew when they were being trashy.

It’s not awful.

It’s memorable, and if you can forget the words, you can have a fair stomp to it.

But in the shadow of the last record, it’s a disappointing start.

 

 

 

 

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.

You take my breath away

Breath

Okay. Maybe I’m jumping to conclusions.

I just put on the whole of this side, starting from here instead of at the beginning. And by excising that piece, I ended up utterly enthralled.

You take my breath away.

This is one of those opportunities for Freddie to show off, completely and utterly, and as often happens, he does it with incomparable insouciance.

The way Freddie manipulates his voice here, particularly in the a capella intro, is almost disturbingly beautiful. To combine such passion and such precision, creating these odd caves of cadence; notes bent rigid, but flowing immaculately.

And for the rest of the piece, a simple piano backing gives the vocal enough space to pull us in a hundred directions. Harmonies pull us up, and then drop us into desperately lonely caverns.

It’s a spacious piece. Freddie sounds like a man lost and alone, singing to himself, only to find himself occasionally surrounded by the harmonies of his own subconscious. The harmonies sound nearly threatening, at times.

You can reduce me to tears

With a single sigh

Every breath you take-

Any sound that you make

Is a whisper in my ear

And that’s it. It’s a song about sound, a song about voice and breath, so of course it is this virtuoso vocal expression. Freddie tries to capture that longing not with the words, but with the intonation: the turn of tone more than the turn of phrase.

And it’s the silences that press the point deep into the chest. The moments of release where sadness wells and you’re left desperately hunting to hear that voice again.

The guitar solo almost feels like an imposition, but it resists the urge to expand too large, simply lifting up, and, again, creating space for more gut wrenching vocals, imitating the harmony parts with it’s own sonic wreath. It’s not really a lead, it’s more of the harmony, harmonising with the emptiness.

People really shouldn’t need convincing that Freddie’s an incredible vocal talent, but if they do, send them right here. Even if you don’t end up as passionately wrapped up in this song as me, there’s no way to miss the delicacy, poise and power under his control.

It’s not a grower, but a haunter. I can feel it burrowing into me, ready to give voice to loneliness.

A truly great sad song is a weirdly uplifting experience. For me, there’s a very particular feeling of tension and opening out. The right song will build in my chest, and at some point pull it open, letting all that sadness and heartness out.

This is the sort of song that can do that, reach inside and open me up.

I don’t think I’d dare to try and sing along though, it’s not that sort of feeling, and to be honest, that’s a rarity in Queen. Normally you are invited in, but here I am just knocked back. Floored and entranced.

And it ends with one of those strange production artefacts, looped and reversed and overlaid vocal parts pour over each other providing a segue and between this and the next. It’s glorious, and it’s one of the more obviously artificial notes in Queen’s experimental noises back catalogue. There is no attempt to imitate something specific, just an overwhelming torrent of voice.

It’s a fitting epilogue to a beautiful vocal poem, and corresponds perfectly to the more plain, but equally unsettling intro.

Maybe we’re in for a less bumpy ride than I thought.

 

 

 

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.

Long away

LongAway

Brian back on form?

It’s hard to explain, partly because I’m not very good explaining (and very, very tired), but this feels like Queen covering the Beatles. The jangled 12 string, the McCartney vocal, the simplish structure and surprising depth.

But if it’s unoriginal, it’s still striking.

Long away.

And it’s not just me, I think. This is one of the rare times May isn’t playing his ‘Red Special’ the guitar he favoured for everything (and he still uses it for the second solo here). He gave up, on account of a thin neck (on the guitar, not him), but wanted to use a Rickenbecker, Lennon’s weapon of choice.

So there’s some intention there.

And it’s a warm and lovely sound, brought out from it. Out of the weirdness of the last, and before the decadence of the next, we have a perfectly cosy number, warm and welcoming and heartfelt.

It’s not ’39, but it’s something.

And it’s lyrics ride a fascinating line between dire and wonderful

Wake up in the morning with a good face

Stare at the moon all day

Lonely as a whisper on a star chase

Does anyone care anyway

The last is almost too on the nose. I had to look up the lyrics to notice them, but then, that’s more how I listen.

It is good to wake up with a good face though.

Anyway, it fits into the tradition of surprisingly bleak lyrics to lovely warm folksy songs (You are my sunshine, I’m looking at you), and it’s a strong tradition. Lift up the heart, and let the brain dash it on rocks once it starts paying attention. It’s a nice dose of bittersweet masochism, which is clearly a strong reason to engage with music.

It’s not what charms me the most though (and trust me, bittersweet masochism is a exactly my flavour of pipe-tobacco). There’s just a sequence of lovely moments in here. Tiny silences, oddly suspended notes, and desperately open hearted guitar.

The segue from the lead solo (the red special one, I believe) is this utterly longing sustained note, and the restraint of the main guitar, on its return, is made up of these heartbreakingly tiny crunches.

It’s these tiny textural details that draw me in and keep me warm.

I like it.

I’m really glad this side of Queen exists, and it’s one of many ways that Brian really does pull me in. His clear passion for folksiness that doesn’t quite sit with the same pomp and drama, and his willingness to execute deftly, as well as bombastically.

It’s the sort of sound that rarely made it onto the singles, let alone the greatest hits, and so it’s deserving of attention.

In fact, it’s just a lovely little stroll of a track, and that’s enough. It’s music for bouncing down the road, with sunshine in your face, and unexpected nostalgias on your mind (and the twinging whinge of mortality nostalgia begets).

It almost makes up for tie your mother down, and certainly makes me less grumpy with Bri. We’re definitely going back in the right direction, at least.

Or maybe I’m just in the mood to feel sad and jangled.

 

 

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.

The millionaire waltz

Millionaire

So, on Saturday I did my first DJ gig since starting this Queen project. The theme was rococo punk, which doesn’t entirely make much sense (and I don’t own a lot of punk), so I was pretty sure I’d nailed it with this one.

I ended up with three men in a stern line, clearly irritated that this song kept on happening. They started off with a chuckle, assuming I was just giving a little blast of waltz time, but the longer it played, the more pissed off they got.

Fucking idiots.

The millionaire waltz.

This song is a wonderful pile of acyclic ridiculousness, and if you can’t have a good time listening to it, then I worry there may be something broken inside you.

Essentially, it’s a kitscher, bouncier variant on the mashed together song elements that worked for so many on Bohemian Rhapsody. We kick off with some waltz-time, we go a little ballad, nudging at something operatic, before slamming into a brutal rock variant, a touch of oompah, some seductive Weimar burlesque, and back to the beginning.

It’s got legs, I’m saying. It will use them to dance you, whisk you off your feet, kick you about a bit, and then chorus line you into submission.

And if that isn’t rococo punk, then I don’t know what is.

Bring out the charge of the love brigade

There is spring in the air once again

Drink to the sound of the song parade

There is music and love everywhere

It’s dedicated to John Reid, their (and Elton John’s) manager at the time. Frankly, he fares hell of a lot better than their last guy.

The whole is pretty decadent, there’s little hint of a critique to it, but it cherishes a certain kind of queer performativity, I think. The sonic inspirations carry it in a particular direction, that give it a subtext all it’s own.

I really enjoy hearing Deacon’s lead bass in the opening sections, bouncing across the strings and matching Freddie’s staccato piano perfectly. He doesn’t stand in the background here, but is right at the fore, anachronistically updating the waltz into something with just a bit more grit. It’s this that leaves space for the wonderful shift in tone as May’s guitars blast in.

And it’s a hell of a lot off rock in a very, very short amount of time, making just enough of a racket for the return to waltztime (now fully guitared) perfectly ridiculous.

Then Freddie starts hamming up his german cabaret voice, to the point where it’s written into the liner notes:

My fine friend – take me wiz you unt love me forever –

My fine friend – forever – ever

Because of course, this isn’t a song about being rich, it’s a song about friendship and love and being made to feel rich through love.

Fuck yeah, Queen.

It’s there right from the beginning, the ‘give a little love’ harmony lines are spotless, and beckon you into a lustrous push and pull. I’ve said it before, but I love the way the voices play with each other in Queen. The key to a good harmony isn’t just the notes, but the tone. There’s something really magic in voices coming together, the sound of people being stronger and better together.

Layered all over this decadent cake of a song.

Let them eat it.

 

 
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.

You and I

You and I

Hey there. You looking for a bright, feel good track to lay over a montage of people having GOOD TIMES. Running down beaches? Laughing in bars? Arms strewn around necks?

You know? Larks.

Well, have we got a track for you.

You and I.

It’s John Deacon’s one for this record, and again, it’s a relatively simple feel good guitar number. Technically, it’s probably boring, but it’s warm and welcoming and I’m smiling just listening to it.

I guess I could try to uncover a darker side to the lyrics (out of context, one verse in particular sounds like it’s a lament to a bartender at the end of a very, very lonely night).

Laughter ringing in the darkness

People drinking for days gone by

Time don’t mean a thing

When you’re by my side

Please stay a while

But it’s not really there. This is just a little frolic through the night. A song about dancing under the moon.

Apparently the rhythm’s got some intriguing elements, but to me it all just sounds like an irresistible bounce.

I find it charming, but I find it hard to think of a reason why anyone else would. The thing that makes Queen easy to rant about is generally that they’re surprisingly complicated, so when an uncomplicatedly light and enjoyable song rolls around, I’m kind of at a loss. It’s a shame too, as it means I end up doing a disservice to John, who I have an already stated soft spot for. (If you’ve got an actual copy of the record, check out his dungarees on the inside…they’re amazing. But he also looks bored as hell.)

I think it’s a necessary element, these warm and simple moments. They glue the whole together, stop it from collapsing under its own weight. The pomp and circumstance needs some feel good in between. The experiments need cosy log fires to keep them warm.

Or something.

I do think Deacon is a hell of a song writer, too. It’s just in a very different way to the rest of the band. Even you’re my best friend is a simple blast of straightforward pop; for me it’s the delivery (and the choice of keyboard) that knocks it out of the park, but it couldn’t be done without a heartbreakingly direct bit of song writing. The same is here, it just isn’t as transcendent.

I can hear the music in the darkness

Floating softly to where to lie

No more questions now

Let’s enjoy tonight

Just you and I

It’s a sensuous song. Focusing more on the distractions than the subject, and there’s a simple romance to that. You might remember the little details of the lanterns or the music or the sound of the laugher, but it’s not what you’re thinking about.

I think John likes to write about a simpler kind of love, perhaps just because he had it simpler. But as a result, he doesn’t sound entitled or spoilt, he just seems to revel in a joy of affection, without  affectation.

There’s a lot to love about it, really. Even if it doesn’t break the mould.

 

 

 

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.

Somebody to love

 

 

SomeBody

You probably know this one.

Somebody to love.

I would like to put forward the idea that you perhaps haven’t noticed how unusual it is.

The rhetoric around it always points to it being Queen’s gospel number, a trbute to Aretha Franklin, who Freddie adored.

I think you can hear some of that in it, but the inability of Queen to turn off their own production and composition styles and tics turns it into something that really doesn’t work like that.

Put it on now, and listen to the backing vocals. Freddie is a torrent of playful expression, flowing through the whole thing, but the backing (again with that essentially Queen ‘three parts, but all three voices singing all three parts’ thickness) punctuates and chops it up constantly.

How much of the support vocal is short sharp bursts of interjection, neatly sliced and cut off? The feeling is one of richness, but on inspection, the song has an odd sparseness. Simple but thumping piano and bass cuts a groove for the voices to play around on top of, and it’s a perfect stage, but the performance on stage is not what it first appears.

Even when lyrically supportive, the backing vocals appear accusative: sharp, aggressive shrieks. Freddie is pure emotional outflow, but the harmonies burst in to stop it up. It’s an intense psychological portrait, on that level, a person wrestling with their own demons.

And demonic it is. Listen to the four yeahs going into the guitar solo, it’s a monstrous sound, blending into the guitar, and being overwhelmed by it.

Once again, we have a love song about suffering, and end up feeling all the more wrapped up in it. Barely noticing the darkness.

Freddie’s desperation is expressed most succinctly not in the words, but in the attempts to squeeze so many words into such short lines.

They say I got a lot of water in my brain

Got no common sense

I got nobody left to believe

And of course, the song is as much about belief as it is about love. And it’s about both those things running out. Being lost.

God it sounds like being lost.

Which is why it’s so strange that it’s so utterly, completely, unstoppably joyful.

Oh god, is it joyful.

The song is so immediate, so pulsing in energy, so outrageously forthright and full of heart that it beckons you in. You have to sing along, you have to take part. You can pick Freddie, or the back line, and you’ll always have something to do. Someone to shout at.

Of course, in reality you’ll do half a job, trying to sing all the parts, and never hitting the highs and lows. But that’s fine, because it’s a joy anyway. It’ll let you pour out that emotion. Hold you. Help you belong.

The vocal breakout is enormous. A simple thing, a repeating phrase, finding constant new ways to complicate itself (the first time the love gets held and oscillated, is particularly entrancing), always increasing in size, heart and scope.

I can’t help but sing it somewhat inverted too, never realising it wasn’t intended as ‘me somebody to love find’. I also had a scratch on my first copy of this track, and so I get confused every time the intro plays out as full sentences. This is all kind of irrelevant.

It’s a wonderful song. Reaching down into your chest, grabbing your heart and smearing it into the sky, sacrificing it to some higher power.

Got no feel, I got no rhythm

I just keep losing my beat

I’m ok, I’m alright

Maybe it’s strong precisely because it’s so lonely. The appeal of being surrounded by so many voices, taken into a group of people all willing to let that anguish out into the world.

And I really feel this gets the message across by stealth and structure, better than Bohemian Rhapsody does by bluff and bluster. The forbidden, the torture, the love, the pain. It’s all here, just wrapped up differently. A different kind of joy to sing along to, a different kind of pain to release.

Sure, I’m over doing it, but that’s the point here.

Freddie’s desire is so pure and honest, and the sadness and desperation and judgement just bristle underneath every moment.

It’s a vivid painting, that you can step into and be part of. If that’s not music at its best, I don’t know what is.

 

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.

White man

Whiteman

The risk of hypocrisy here is enormous. But I promised 500 words, so I’m going to do my best. Really, if I had time and money and sense, I’d find someone with the right perspective to write this for me.

White man.

So this is Brian trying to express sympathy and solidarity for the genocide of Native people led by European colonists. I think the intention is pretty solid.

Of course, he’s Brian May, so he’s doing it through the medium of hard rock, some Queen’s hardest, actually.

I think it’s the first time we’ve seen Queen being actively political (aside from the implied personal politics of loving whilst gay and not out) . I’ve tried to shoe horn anticapitalism into a few of the earlier songs, but this is clearly written with a very specific intent. Taking culpability and trying to process and amplify that white people destroyed nations and lives to make space for itself.

There’s a problem though. And it’s the same problem I end up with if I go much further with this.

He does it all by taking the role of the Native.

The narrator of the song challenges, curses and holds the white man accountable.

Now. Freddie’s relationship with colonialism is complicated. But May is a quintessential white man.

At best, the whole thing is an acre of cringe with a solid guitar crunch underneath it. In reality though, it’s another invasion. Another space colonised. May’s attempt to give voice to a struggle ends up supplanting that voice with his own. He escapes blame by speaking from the oppressed position. It feels like allyship at its worst.

Which of course, is why I don’t want to judge the song, and talk about the narrative in any more detail. It doesn’t matter if it seems right or wrong to my ear (and the use of a clear racist epithet at the start of one verse speaks against it). Really, it needs to be torn apart by the people whose voice May is trying to speak for.

And that’s not me.

There’s a chance, of course, that I’m miles off. That the whole piece was constructed in consultation with the surviving Native people (the song makes no effort that I can see to specify a particular nation or culture). That May did the legwork, talked to people, wrote collaboratively, and is giving voice to a specific person.

But, well, there’s no sign of it. And to do this right, you have to attribute and specify, really. Freddie’s own colonised and immigrant history probably isn’t enough to wash off the sense of privilege.

Sure, there’s probably some excuses about the time. I’m sure this felt like sticking a neck out and doing the right thing. But it doesn’t really make a difference, and it stops me from being able to discuss this in any other light. I can’t gloss over, and I can’t go deeper without repeating the problem.

So this is what you get. A link to the song, and a set of problems I can spot, even from my position of ignorance and privilege.

One of my worries about Queen, and a lot of music I’m passionate about, is that it essentially becomes a form of escapism, ignoring the realities of the world for the sake of emotional release. So on some level, I want to praise Queen for taking up a political cause and making a statement. And it is clearly trying to be on the right side. It’s not as if I’ve ever criticised them for a lack of nuance before.

But no. It’s not enough to make the statement, if you don’t figure out how to do it right

 

Sorry if I’m being just as bad. I’d really love to hear the views of anyone Brian is trying to speak for here. I’ll happily remove anything I’ve to make space for that perspective. And I’m sorry I haven’t sought it out already.

 

 

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.

Good old-fashioned lover boy

Loverboy-01

Thanks Freddie, you’re getting us back on track.

This feels like a sequel to Killer Queen, with that slightly more rocking variant of the vaudeville in full effect. It’s also another non-body focussed seduction song, with Freddie bigging up his ability to romance, dance and date the hell out of his partner.

Because he’s a good old-fashioned lover boy.

I’ll be honest, I’d not scheduled to write this yet, but with half a thought of it, ended up singing it to myself around the kitchen as I did the washing up. It’s pure infectious.

There’s also something lovely in how my memory of it (even though I’d only heard it the other day) was slightly off. I was singing a seductive version, but actually, Freddie’s delivery isn’t laid back, it’s punchy (except for the ‘when I’m not with you’ portion) and the backing vocal is so gleefully rowdy.

The whole thing is actually this raucous blitz of sillyness. It’s not a slow, sensual date, but one of those genuinely exciting ones, rioting across town, laughing and playing and collapsing tiredly into each other.

Frankly, its not old fashioned.

Hey boy where do you get it from

Hey boy where did you go

I learned my passion in the good old fashioned school of lover boys –

Those first two lines there, the near chanted vocal, gives us  a chance to mention someone important. They are sung by Mike Stone, the liner notes actually highlighting the specific words it gives to him. Mike Stone is the unsung hero of all Queen’s work up to this point. He’s the producer and engineer of all of these early Queen records. He is really the key to their sound.

It’s a tricky thing, attributing credit to music production and composition. Most music is collaborative, with different people taking different roles, and being the writer of a song can almost be by agreement rather than actual role. Everybody does these things differently. My understanding is that Queen always credited whoever came up with the lyric and core idea, even though a lot of the time from that initial point onward, it would be pure collaboration. In particular, most (but definitely not all) of Brian’s guitar solos are his own work. On Sheer Heart Attack, because of his time in hospital spaces were left for him to solo in.

Sometimes songs would be crafted very meticulously, with the writer having full control, and once someone was attributed to a song, they got the final say in everything.

Anyway, the point is that they all worked together, and very much took control of the studio when they needed to. But overseeing and organising all of this, will have been Mike Stone. We can’t know what he was responsible for in terms of the sound, but we know that they didn’t want to work with anyone else.

Brian’s obituary of Mike is a wonderful read. It tells the story of a new engineer in their studio who turned out to be the best fit, and so they stuck with him. Someone who helped build the intensely elaborate Queen sound, and keep it running.

Hero, basically.

Anyway, that’s his voice. So you know.

I can dim the lights and sing you songs full of sad things

We can do the tango just for two

I can serenade and gently play on your heart strings

Be your Valentino just for you

It’s lovely, isn’t it. One of Freddie’s boast tracks, rightly lauding himself, and making every word believable. It is also delightfully ambiguous about the person being romanced, leaving room for it to be as gay as you need it. I think it always felt gay to me, giving me a chance to secretly feel out a masculine fantasy romance.

But it’s not subtle or secretive (even if it is subtextual) it’s just a raucous blast of playful romantic joy. It’s a panacea to the fraught relationships and fears of somebody to love, love of my life and bohemian rhapsody. This is revelling.

It’s one to bounce down the street, singing while skipping, blissfully unaware of anything around you but your affection.

And it’s so fucking fun to sing.

 

 

 
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.

Drowse

Drowse-01

This is pretty lustrous, actually.

This is definitely my favourite Roger Taylor one so far. A drowsy, hallucinogenic, melancholic perspective on teenage life. It touches on his early ‘using rock and roll to run away’ themes, but focusses more on the hazy feeling of trappedness before the escape.

It’s surprisingly gripping, for something with such a drunkenly phased guitar line.

Drowse.

It’s the sad-eyed, goodbye, yesterday moments I remember.

It’s the bleak street, weak-kneed partings I recall.

It’s the mistier mist

The hazier days

The brighter sun

And the easier lays

There’s all the more reason for laughing and crying

When you’re younger and life isn’t too hard at all.

As with much of Roger’s work, the song-writing is oddly out of keeping with the Queen style, here feeling much more like doped up Pink Floyd. Recalling childhood through a burnt out lens is really striking though, and it bears a close listen.

It’s the fantastic drowse of the afternoon Sundays

That bored you to rages of tears

Whenever Brian goes into teenage mode, he focusses on desire, lusting after perfected distant images of women. It’s creepy as fuck. Roger’s perspective doesn’t romanticise, but captures perfectly the dullness of it all, and the weirdly energising tension between that boredom and the rage of emotions and feelings at the time. The mundanity and the rawness brought together in tiny little details.

It’s a vertical hold, all the things that you’re told

The twin sensations of being trapped and sleepy pull through the whole piece like a spine. There’s a nostalgia, but a real awareness that its self-deception.

I really think it’s special. Capturing the hallucinogenic tedium of teen life perfectly. Or at least, the teen life of someone like me, comfortably bored, with the freedom to make safely dangerous mistakes.

It’s not just the lyrics, either. The washed out guitar, perpetually sliding, and permanently phased into a squamous mass of sadness. It reinforces it all. The theme made explicit in the nebulousness of the guitar line.

Roger’s voice is low down in the mix for much of the time, wiped out by the swell of the thing. His voice even ‘breaks’ halfway through, dropping an octave alongside a clarifying guitar part. Again, a hint of the theme. By the end, when he drops further to talking, rambling like a drunk, and disappearing from the lyric sheet, we reveal a tired out, wasted present as the actual perspective.

It’s like an old man remembering his youth, getting excited (if finding an honest way to express it), but eventually getting bored and distracted himself.

It’s strange. But it’s wonderful.

It ain’t easy at all.

Thinkin’ it right, doin’ it wrong

It’s easier from an armchair.

Waves of alternatives wash at my sleepiness.

Have my eggs poached for breakfast I guess.

The mundanity of that close is kind of thrilling. Oscillating between replaying the past, and wishing for ways to change it, then getting distracted by thoughts of breakfast.

Is it really just someone staying up too late, pawing at their memories as they try to drift away, always finding some new memory to burst in on.

It’s a beautifully dense pile of emotions and thoughts. So many threads to pull on, so much to recognise and understand. It sounds like a simple song, and it has a simple structure, but every detail of it seems to have layers.

And it expresses its themes so perfectly.

It’s a precise kind of drowse. And I’m grateful for it.

Even if it stirs up some memory.

 

 

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.

Teo torriatte (let us cling together)

TeoTorriatte

I don’t quite get this one.

It has a lot of charms, but it also seems like it doesn’t quite know what sort of song it is. Weirdly, it feels a bit like Brian trying to do a Freddie, or at least, mash together a few different flavours of Freddie.

It’s got a little bit of the piano ballad and a little bit of the ‘song for singing along at the end of a gig’ mission to it.

Teo torriatte (let us cling together).

I guess in the end, it’s a hymn, more than anything, and on that level it hits the mark. But it’s a weird mark to push for, even for this band’s diverse tendencies.

It has a strong feeling of uplift to it. A heartfelt coming together in the choruses, emphasised by the Japanese repetition.

And apparently that is the core, it’s a tribute to the Japanese fans of the band, apparently already a factor in the bands success. Thanks are given to a friend and interpreter Chika Kujiraoka in the liner notes.

It does work as an extended sung hug.

For me, it doesn’t hit. It’s strong, with a sparse arrangement but constant sense of openness. It feels uplifting and uniting, which is what I praise the band for so often. But here it just feels a little too quiet. A little unextravagant.

But not in a way that will charm those who find the band too bombastic.

In the quiet of the night

Let our candle always burn

Let us never lose the lessons we have learned

It is a kind and generous song, but it isn’t really inspiring. It lacks the beguiling weirdness of in the lap of the gods…revisited, while striving for the same kind of closure.

There’s two things worth noting.

One that makes me chuckle is confirmation that a certain SNES game producer was a massive Queen fan. The sequel to Ogre battle: The March of the Black Queen is called Tactics Ogre: Let us cling together. I hope for more turn based strategy games based on Queen songs in the future.

The other thing is the return of the reversed harmonium Shepard tones from the intro to the album. The eerie sound actually reminds me more of the Flash Gordon soundtrack than anything else, but is used to add a circularity to the record. In particular, it’s using a form of aural illusion that makes a sound feel like it’s pitching upwards permanently, by presenting octaves in unison in a particular way. A faintly terrifying explanation of Shepard tones may help. (Or not. Depending on your current state of mind. Sorry.)

I kind of wish it went a little further with the effect, but I do praise it for twinning one weird effect with the reversed harmonium, for an added creep factor. Really though, it doesn’t do much apart from book end the record (and remind me of how little I liked the first track, which doesn’t help).

But there we have it.

This record wasn’t the disappointment I expected at times, with some really sterling highlights, but it ends with a solid but uninspiring (for me) number. Somehow, that’s fitting.

At least it is a very Queen track. A sing along about sticking together. It’s what I asked for, I shoudn’t complain.

I wonder where they’ll go with that theme next.

 

 

 
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.