QUEEN — News Of The World (review)

QUEEN — News Of The World album cover Album · 1977 · Hard Rock Buy this album from MMA partners
3.5/5 ·
siLLy puPPy
From the very beginning, QUEEN cleverly walked that line that skirted a pigeonholed genre definition and rather crafted a unique mix of hard rock, piano pop ballads, touches of jazz, Victorian music hall and subtle and not so hints of progressive rock which culminated on their hugely successful album “A Night At The Opera” which continued on the followup and sequel “A Day At The Races.” While the progressive rock scene was fading and then suddenly practically obliterated once the Sex Pistols detonated their punk rock bomb onto an unsuspecting music industry which once unleashed, the world would never be the same. Wise bands either folded completely or adapted. QUEEN wasn’t going anywhere and found a way to sally forth without completely abandoning their signature idiosyncrasies but by merely streamlining them into more digestible packets that would find them in a more commercial mood on their sixth album NEWS OF THE WORLD.

The punk rock scene was predominantly a backlash against the pompous fantasy bands that were more engaged in escapism than confronting the realities and injustices of the world that surrounded them. While the true prog acts were the most greatly affected, pseudo-prog light bands like QUEEN felt the impact as well but had less of a problem adapting since they were already half way there. Indeed, the relevance of the early 70s arena rock bands was fading and a new brand of ugly in-yer-face stripped down errancy was in the works ranging from the angry anarcho-punk of the Sex Pistols to the more artistic post-punk that followed. Adding to the pressures of change were also the more funk fueled bass grooves of the disco scene. The new audiences either wanted the world go down in flames or they simply wanted to usher in a new form of simplified escapism in the form of the dance floor. Either way, QUEEN was due for a makeover and that’s exactly what the doctor ordered and delivered with NEWS OF THE WORLD.

The irony of QUEEN’s situation was in that their music was about as far from punk as possible. It was multi-layered, slick and often had more in common with a ballet recital than a rock band but as luck would have it they would record their sixth album in the same studio that the Sex Pistols were working on their landmark punk album “Never Mind The Bollocks, Here Comes The Sex Pistols.” Joining the ranks of the once complex bands who were watering down their sound in response to the new wave reality, QUEEN tamed their musical compositions significantly and focused on more straight forward arrangements that kept the tracks more easily categorized with infinitely easier to swallow hooks. The tracks ranged from straight forward blues rock to funk and even a punkish metal guitar driven fury in the form of “Sheer Heart Attack,” an unfinished track during the sessions of the album of the same name that was revived for a modern day adaptation.

While QUEEN tamed the complexity, they made no attempt to decrease the diverse elements that made them stand out from the rest of the rock world. NEWS OF THE WORLD finds just as many musical genres nestled into the mix and while the over-the-top production had been tamed and used to create subtleties that weren’t so overweening, they were still there to be found. The music on the other hand was a new form of sing-along arena rock that was designed to be played in a live audience setting and nothing conveys this more than the album’s opening dynamic duo powerhouse combo of “We Will Rock You” and “We Are The Champions,” which have been literally played somewhere ceaselessly since they emerged back in 1977, especially after having caught on as being as mandatory as the national anthem at stadium sports events. Although played to death, the anthemic stomp and dripping with attitude lyrical content has guaranteed that the band probably made a billion dollars in royalties off these two tracks alone.

While the two openers are the sounds of dread for many including myself, the rest of the album isn’t quite as bad if taken in an arena pop rock context. “Sheer Heart Attack” is a feisty heavy metal punk infused rocker that proves that QUEEN didn’t wimp out while they were strolling down simplicity alley and an equal middle finger back to the punk crowds that made fun of their musical style. NEWS OF THE WORLD also became more a democracy for the band with both Roger Taylor and John Deacon composing two songs each. Taylor crafted the heavy ball busting “Sheer Heart Attack” and “Fight From The Inside” whereas Deacon contributed with “Spread Your Wings” and “Who Needs You.” May would write four tracks and Mercury only three making this the least Mercury dominant album up to this point in their career.

NEWS OF THE WORLD is a fairly decent set of pop rock tunes laced with other genres minus the first two overplayed tracks that i can no longer tolerate in any way shape or form. The tracks range from the same operatic piano led rock such as “All Dead, All Dead” and “Fight From The Inside” to the more funk and jazz laced tracks like “Get Down, Make Love,” “Sleeping On The Sidewalk” and “My Melancholy Blues.” Some of the music hall tendencies of the past still emerge briefly in tracks like “It’s Late,” but have mostly been replaced by bluesy rockers that are more suitable for a live arena rock setting. This was the period when QUEEN were on top of the world as far as playing in live venues.

While most fans of QUEEN’s earlier music won’t find NEWS OF THE WORLD to be anywhere near the top of their favorite QUEEN albums, the album has remained their most successful commercially speaking with sales exceeding 10 million as well as making them one of the most successful arena rock bands of all time. While i rarely listen to this one, mainly due to the two opening tracks, this is not a bad album for a once mighty progressively infused rock band in simplified form but in terms of sophistication a clear step down the totem pole. The artwork was also a stroke of genius in that it cleverly latched onto the sci-fi themes in the same year that Star Wars stole the public’s attention, so no matter what you may think of the music on NEWS OF THE WORLD, one can only gaze back in time in admiration as to how cleverly QUEEN played their cards in terms of a business oriented brand name and laughed all the way to the bank a mere four years after they were in utter poverty. Now that’s a true tale of rags to riches if i’ve ever heard one.
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