Discipline Reviews: Queen - Hot Space

Martintox Presents: Discipline Reviews



Hot Space

A.K.A: I'm not sure reviewing this in Quebec makes the title very accurate...

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Artist: Queen
Released in: 1982
Genre: Rock, Disco
Label: EMI, Parlophone, Elektra, Hollywood
Producer: Queen, Arif Mardin, Mack, David Bowie
Length: 43:30
Tracks: 11
Best Track: Las Palabras De Amor

TRACKS: 1) Staying Power; 2) Dancer; 3) Back Chat; 4) Body Language; 5) Action This Day; 6) Put Out The Fire; 7) Life Is Real (Song For Lennon); 8) Calling All Girls; 9) Las Palabras De Amor; 10) Cool Cat; 11) Under Pressure

Introduction:

I hold a very bipolar relationship with Queen. On one hand, they're positively gods of music, and while quite a few groups surpassed them, none have manage to generate the amount of pizzaz those four guys generate each second. On the other hand, while on my trip to London and Paris a month or two ago, my group broke out and sang "Bohemian Rhapsody" about 6 fucking times, and I swear I'm going to eviscerate each single person in my direct vicinity if this ever happens again with a 100-meter radius of me.

But they did some good songs, though; pretty much every song they have ever made that isn't "Bohemian Rhapsody" or "Killer Queen" are absolute classics, and no one, not even that friend of mine at school who won't stop singing Queen and only knows of Talking Heads via Stop Making Sense, will do anything about that. I know better than to overdose on music in this day and age; that shit happened to Pink Floyd, and those guys have talent and shit.

Back in the early 80's, the group was on the top of the world, hot off the heels of hits they had scored on their albums The Game and Flash Gordon. However, the fact that The Game was their first album to use synthesizers was a bit of a foreboding sign of some very bad events coming up in the future, what with the whole synthpop thing no one really seems to like. The result wasn't exactly such; instead, Queen mixed their rock with disco and put out Hot Space in 1982.


The Album:

The idea of reviewing this album became sort of an in-joke amongst me and a few friends of mine, for reasons I completely forgot. As en entry into the disco world, it's actually not that bad, but it isn't exactly very good either. If there was such a thing as a worst Queen album, I'm afraid that this would be the one, even if it's more good than it is horrible. There are lots of things to point fingers at, but the main problems are the production and the step down that the songwriting took.

Sure, the production is always the part that keeps getting all of the blame, but that threat is actually valid for once. Check out, for instance, the opening track, "Staying Power"; it's got a nice rhythm and some sweet vocals by Freddie Mercury, but what the fuck happened to the drums? There's an absolutely huge, gaping hole where something that would resemble percussion should be, and it's not there! It's gone! Where is it, kids? It sure ain't here! I'm not even sure there's a bass in that song!

At the very least, the rest of the songs on the first side (i.e the disco side) of the album do something or other to try and fill the hole that makes that entire part seem way too hollow and lifeless, even for a disco album. For instance, "Dancer" has a snappy bass synth line to give the song a much fuller sound, coincidentally making it the best track on the first side by far. Of course, the bass synth isn't the only good thing about that song; it's got one hell of a good groove.

"Back Chat" sounds a bit more European-flavored, has a guitar solo, and is actually the one disco track that actually really works, since "Dancer" doesn't actually capture much of the aesthetic. I'm not exactly sure about the vocals and lyrics, however, they sound kinda silly in hindsight. I do like the superimposed voice bites of Freddie Mercury blurting out random shit, though; really, it doesn't matter what he says, anything that involves multiple Freddies is fine by me.

"Body Language" is silly as hell, even if it's bad in the way that Queen sometimes make hilariously bad songs. The bass line is the good kind of campy, but the song takes one hell of a turn for the worse when Freddie pops in. It's almost fucking magic how bad that song is; it's not even hard to listen to, but it's way too silly, even for Queen, I can't get myself to take it seriously within Queen standards! But honestly, that's not even the worst part of this album.

The worst part is the fact that the first Roger Taylor song on this album can't even bother being bad enough to be interesting. To explain a bit, I think that Roger Taylor did some really, really goddamn good song and vocals in said tracks (including but not limited to "Fight From The Inside" and "Fun It"); in the case of this song, while the chorus is actually really good, he doesn't even contribute vocals to the entirety of the song, which I find a little disappointing.

That sums up the disco part of the album. Thankfully, the second part is waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay fucking better. We start with the anthemic rock track "Put Out The Fire", the first song to feature that nice crunchy Brian May guitar. Apparently, the lyrics speak out against firearms, and I'm cool with that; after all, they didn't have problems with swords when they did the soundtrack to Highlander, have they?

Lyrically, I don't really like "Life Is Real"; it's a tribute to John Lennon following his being murdered back in 1980, but considering he was a huge-ass hypocrite and he beat his wive(s), I have no sympathy for the guy who wrote "imagine no possessions, I wonder if you can" when he had truckloads of cash due to his being a member of the Beatles. But, you know, it's a Queen ballad, you can't go wrong with that formula.

The other Roger Taylor song, "Calling All Girls", is way better than "Action This Day"; it doesn't give the idea of it being in the same vein as his harder tracks like "Fun It", so I can't be disappointed by it. Plus, that melody is actually really nice, along with the record scratching when Freddie says "this message is-*scratch* this message is-*scratch* this message is-*scratch". Another cool part is the guitar; it's like the strings are shoved right in your ear.

But that was some entry level shit; now, we get into the heavyweight Queen action with "Las Palabras De Amor". It's intended as a tribute to the Ibero-American fanbase that the group possesses, in the same way that "Teo Torriatte" is dedicated to their japanese fans, and is considered a metaphor for the Falklands War, but I don't give a shit about that because it's fucking beautiful and I THINK I'M GOING TO CRY NOW, GOD DAMMIT

No, seriously, it's one of the best anthemic ballads they have ever done; while the use of synthesizers has been mostly disappointing for this album, they slam their fingers on one side of the keyboards and slide their hand straight to the other side, and everything in the song keeps on sprawling and soaring, while those marvelous vocals keep going. And let's not forget that extended coda, where everything ends up fading out, leaving only those sprawling "starry" synth effects to end the song.

"Cool Cat" is cool.

"Under Pressure" is the one song off the entire album that everyone remembers, and while it kinda gets close to being as overplayed as "Bohemian Rhapsody", it's not enough to invalidate its being a great song. Plus, it's got David Bowie in it! Now that I'm much more acquainted with his discography than I once was, the song gets a few more notches, even if the bass line is kind of getting old. Oh well, at least it's still a pretty nice conclusion.


Conclusion

It's not a terrible album, but it's a serious disappointment in hindsight. If you flash back to The Game, the synths were just complementing the completely balls-out furious playing the band did in it, like in the almost-title track, and it was absolutely goddamn awesome. In the case of Hot Space, the synths are way more prominent, and that pretty much fucks up about half of the album; the only really good disco songs are "Dancer" and "Back Chat".

I won't lie to myself, however; it still has a very nice load of good tracks, and nothing on there, how bad it can be (yes, even the gloriously stupid "Body Language"), really offends me. The thing is, however, it really doesn't work as a jumping-on point for someone new to the group's actual discography, since the only recognizable single is "Under Pressure". As it is, stick to News Of The World or Innuendo.

Personal Rating: ***½
Recommendation Rating: **½
Lettered Rating: B+


As always, feedback is welcome, and remember that you can request me to review an album, game or movie.

You can find my previous music reviews on the archive that's been made just for that purpose.

 

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