A Parahumanoidarianised

It’s self-perpetuating a parahumanoidarianised

Following the decidedly mixed reactions to their last LP, Hot Space in 1982 Queen did exactly what I’d have done at the time, took 1983 off*; partying, playing crazy golf in the ballrooms of their respective mansions and counting their helicopters, oh and cranking out solo albums.  The criticism was that they had basically sold out their rock roots and were trying to be all groovy and dancey instead, which is pretty odd because Queen had, by that time, spent the best part of a decade flitting around and dabbling with musical styles; it’s one of the things that made them so damn good.  But it is interesting how a band who proudly stamped their first couple of LPs with the legend, ‘No synthesisers’ changed.

Queen Works 01

From the vantage point of 2014, when we all live in space domes and jetpack our way to work every day to the sound of Finnish ambient techno-dub step, this all seems a bit anachronistic but there was a real tussle going on back in the day between the proponents of ‘real’ music and synth jockeys.  Looked at this way it gives Queen’s 1984 opus The Works, an interesting context as a tussle between nostalgia and technology, humans v. machines, rock against dance pop.  May vs. Taylor, Deacon and Mercury**; the band’s internal discourse laid out for all to hear.  Which is all just as well, as this is the first Queen LP to me that smacked less of art than of product, give or take a song or two.

Queen Works 07

Living in a new world
Thinking in the past
Living in a new world
How you gonna last
Machine world…
It’s a Machine’s world…

Queen Works 04

My instinct is to come down on the side of RAWK!!! obviously, but there you go it isn’t quite as simple as that.  The Works kicks off with a calculated exercise in nostalgia, ‘Radio Ga Ga’, Roger Taylor’s paean to the radio of his youth, with kick-ass synchronised hand-clapping chorus-a-go-go.  But what’s this? it’s being played entirely on electronic drums and synths, with a few proper instruments on the side? oh, the subversion! I’ve loved this track since I was 12, perfect big pop as far as I’m concerned.

Queen Works 05

Then TEAM RAWK comes smashing back with Brian May’s ‘Tear It Up’, a visceral^ rocker that in this company puts the ‘raw’ in ‘rawk’, the rhythm stomps and stamps, May’s guitar bites and slashes and Mercury snarls cheap innuendo.

I love you cos you’re sweet and I love you cos you’re naughty
I love you for you mind but give me your body
I wanna be a toy at your birthday party
Wind me up – wind me up – wind me up – let me go

This was about as wild as I’d ever experienced, the first time I heard it and I still like it today; which is pretty much all you can ask for, some anger and flash stealing through the otherwise shiny production (by Queen and Mack).  Next up is a real consummate Queen song ‘It’s a Hard Life’, which despite its pants video, is another keeper.  Only one band on earth could have made this track, all the elements are there, that guitar sound, those harmonies, that ‘tache.  Criticism is useless, resistance is futile; just sing along, despite the fact it is so preposterous and pompous, give it The Works.

Queen Works 02

Like a turd in a swimming pool ‘Man on the Prowl’ bobs up to the surface next.  I’m afraid that the nicest thing I can think of saying about this Shakin’ Stevens-lite number, is that I quite like Fred Mandel’s boogie piano towards the end, whether that’s in its’ own right, or simply because I know it signals the end of the track is nigh, is a moot point.  Seriously, take ‘Crazy Little Thing Called Love’ denude it of anything original or worthwhile, murder it at midnight in a dark alley, fricassee the corpse in paraffin and serve cold, in a vomit sauce and you’ve got ‘Man on the Prowl’.

Queen Works 08

Luckily, side 2 comes slamming back with ‘Machines (or Back To Humans)’, in which May and Taylor anticipate this blog post from 30 years away and dissect the major themes of humans/machines and stuff, way before I got around to it even.  I really like this track with its mix of guitar flourishes, synths, vocodered vox (courtesy of Roger Taylor) and wildly overly simplistic lyrics, plus the following astonishing line,

It’s software it’s hardware
It’s heartbeat is time-share
It’s midwife’s a disk drive
It’s sex-life is quantised
It’s self-perpetuating a parahumanoidarianised

Why the hell is the word/letter ‘a’ in there before parahumanoidarianised? It makes even less sense, that way! Mrs 1537 doesn’t agree, but I really like this one because it rocks out really well against all those synthetic beats from Mack.

Queen Works 06

Again, ‘I want To Break Free’ would be a genius pop moment^^ on any album, pure class.  Try listening to it without thinking about my fourth favourite music vid ever and smiling to yourself – bet you can’t.  It also works really well when they rocked it up live.  I remember someone I was at school with getting really cross at the lyric, ‘I’ve fallen in love for the first time / and this time I know it’s for real’, as though he’d made a brilliant discovery and knocked Freddie out in some great logical fist fight – dick.

Then May brings the hammer down on The Works with, umm, ‘Hammer To Fall’ the track which made me fall in love with them and rock itself, at Live Aid.  For years this was the track I ran to in a temper, I’d never heard anything so cutting and loud; the line about standing proud ‘in the shadow of the mushroom cloud’ was genuinely the most powerful thing I’d ever heard.  You know what? it is still a great, great, great riff.  The closing ‘Is This The World We Created …?’ still sounds as heartfelt, trite and true as it ever did.

Queen Works 03

For me the humans win my entirely artificial contest, just^*.  The Works has never been one of my favourite Queen albums (I could pretty much list them for you in order of sheer greatness, if required), but it does have some great tracks on it; but if you stack them up against Queen at their absolute bonkers 70s best such as ‘Somebody To Love’, or ‘Brighton Rock’ then they fade into the background.  Now I think what the band needed was to somehow involve a monosyllabic Frenchman in a trench coat who could somehow pass for being Scottish, running around cutting people’s heads off at Madison Square Garden, in the mix.

Queen Works 09

472 Down.

*I remember taking 1994 off after someone at work was less than flattering about a report I’d written and then when I took 2007 off after someone made a cutting remark about the length of my suit trousers.

**I know I’m simplifying, but bear with me and don’t look too closely at the actual facts and we can stay mates.

^by Queen 1984 standards, anyway.

^^and yet another John Deacon genius pop moment.

^*by a score of 4-3 in extra time, via a controversial last-minute Brian May penalty.

22 thoughts on “A Parahumanoidarianised

  1. It is impossible for me to be critical when it comes to Queen. Every song from every album up to The Works is excellent in my opinion. I’m such a fan that I even think Flash Gordon and Hot Space are overlooked!
    This was the album where John Deacon went uptown and got a perm and a dozen or so pairs of short-shorts to wear on stage, right? Still…fabulous bass player!

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    1. Not even ‘Man on the Prowl’? Ha! Flash Gordon is one of my absolute faves and Hot Space isn’t half as bad as most people seem to make out.

      Interesting about the perm – I’d have guessed that it came in around The Game, sadly being a bald sort it was never an option for me.

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  2. I love the Lego ‘tache! And, from your description, you seem a bit ambivalent about Man on the Prowl. Did you like that one or not?

    I could never get into this much beyond the hits (and Tear it Up). I think they definitely needed a bit of French/Scots in the mix. And maybe some Scots/Spanish? And… whatever the bad guy was supposed to be.

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    1. Thank you – i drew it on, with a very unsteady hand (if you look closely). I need to make the other members for next time.

      Ha! I really should get off the fence about ‘Man on the Prowl’ shouldn’t I?

      Kurgan was from Badasslovia, i think.

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  3. Nice one. This album has always been a difficult one for me to get into. “Gaga” and “Break Free” I enjoyed. Beyond that I just kept going back to A Day At The Races and Sheer Heart Attack.

    I do remember buying this after their last Mercury album came out, so emotions were running high. He passed away the week I bought The Works, on cassette for $5. And my girlfriend had just dumped me, too. Two weeks later we got back together. 5 years later we got married. Never reconciled with Queen’s The Works. Maybe I should now.

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    1. Thanks. It is a bit too 80s isn’t it? so despite some greatness, it still has that going on. Gotta love ‘Hammer To Fall’ though!

      I remember selling some records to raise the cash for some drinks to toast Freddie with when he passed (I was a penniless student at the time).

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