Two of the most liberated and ambitious of the "fun" oriented British bands beginning to make their mark in the States are the updated war-horses Pretty Things and the nouveau-heavies Queen. Both of these groups, which could easilyif not accuratelybe termed "psychedelic," seem to be signaling the advent of what may well be a renaissance of affective rock & roll. If the renaissance occurs, it will be as a result of autonomous imaginations like these; imaginations free enough to permit the introduction of such seemingly outlandish and... Read More
inept devices as marching bands and carnival noises (can you imagine the Allman Brothers even considering this?) and somehow to put them to good use. Of course, no device would work if these two bands weren't firmly grounded in the fundamentals of rock & rolland the Pretty Things and Queen have certain manifestations of these in common: Each band likes to lay high, firm three- or four-part harmonies and an anything-goes range of effects over a hard, visceral base of guitar, bass and drums.
In the recordings of each group, there exists the clear evidence of intelligent minds at work; there's even a suggestion of taste here and there, but happily without the restraint that usually accompanies it.
Queenon the record and on the jacket, toomakes no concessions to moderation. This quartet, bejeweled and mascaraed, projects a correspondingly shrill surliness in its dramatically technologized rock & roll. And Queen makes unusually crisp, dense recordings the group's three albums vibrate with multilayered electric guitars and unearthly overdubbed vocal harmonies (which have the unfortunate tendency to sound at times like Uriah Heep's). But there's more to Queen than rouge and chrome. The group's main writers, singer Freddie Mercury and guitarist Brian May, work in a sophisticated, glib style and the material's wittiness lifts the ponderously thick music like flaps on a jumbo jet. On Sheer Heart Attack, "Killer Queen" (which would seem from the title to be a sonic blitzkrieg) and "Bring Back That Leroy Brown" are surprisingly light showcases for Queen's wit and vocal dexterity, calculated like everything this band has ever doneto turn heads in surprise and wonder:
She keeps Moët et Chandon
In her pretty cabinet
"Let them eat cake," she says
Just like Marie Antoinette
A built-in remedy
For Khrushchev and Kennedy ...*
Queen knows its stuff but they haven't yet managed to approach the stunning flamboyance they displayed on "Liar" and "Keep Yourself Alive," the best tracks on the first album, Queen, much less show any noticeable development since their promising beginning. And like 10 c.c., which the band sometimes resembles, Queen tends to confuse coyness with profundity and to go for resolution to the lyrical non sequitur. If there's no meaning (there isn't), if nothing follows (it doesn't)