I’m pretty broken, with a very Queencentric hangover. I didn’t drink, but last night was ‘Freddie’ a party we threw where we just played Freddie’s music and got everyone dressed as Freddie. I’m now going for a ‘hair of the dog’ approach, but not through choice. I’ve got four days to review this whole record, and most of those days are spoken for.
So let’s get to this.
Even the word makes my head hurt right now.
Queen are a pretty great band for a party music. Everyone knows them, and they invite you to sing along, dance along, strut and get ridiculous. Even when people don’t know the tracks, there’s a certain kind of energy coursing through them that means people can get on board. I was surprised how well it went, playing out obtuse and ridiculous early Queen to a crowd that only knew hits.
But then, the night also involved someone realising that You’re my best friend was by Queen. So maybe my assumptions about unifying culture are pretty skewed.*
But what does a Queen party sound like?
Well, there’s two answers, but right now, we should be focussing on the actual song.
It’s a hell of an album opener, and an interesting way to come back from a difficult three years (more difficult privately than publicly. Freddie’s AIDS diagnosis starts looming at this point, though it isn’t traditionally read as being exposed in the music until Innuendo, but we’ll get to that).
Come back and play, come back and play
Archly artificial drums burst in, and Freddie is essentially playground chanting his way through the first half of the song. Bass kicks in late, and guitar even later. It’s stark and minimal (for Queen), and very, very precise.
It’s also pretty absurd
We had a good fight in somebody’s face
We were up all night singing
And giving a chase
It does at least do me the recognition of shouting about a hangover.
The song does thicken up with guitar eventually, but it always feels more jammed than planned, despite that very carefully charted course of expansion and deepening. It’s a perfectly shallow piece, about a pretty childish party, with just the faintest hint of darkness.
It’s actually very different from a part shaped by all the music of Queen, in that the thing that is missing is the shifting tone and dynamics of not just the average Queen night, but the average Queen track. This just builds and repeats and never quite bursts. It remains compact, it remains solid.
It’s amazing how engaging Queen’s rock hard shifts of tone are. They give so much weight to the band, so much drama. It means people can dance and play and not quite no what to expect, but never get tired…there’s always a prompt to do something different and new.
And in fact, that works perfectly here, because Party is one half of a diptych, the ending of this song not actually working at all (check the link above if you don’t believe me) if it doesn’t segue into the next track, which immediately rebuts it.
If Queen just wanted to let you know that they were still here, they do it pretty quickly here.
*Obviously they are, the idea of a unifying culture is obviously absurd, on so many levels, but leave me be, I’ve only had three hours sleep, and I spent most of them in anxiety dreams.
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.