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Queen - Sheer Heart Attack CD (album) cover




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3.97 | 582 ratings

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3 stars A major disappointment after the astonishing 'Queen II', 'Sheer Heart Attack' brought QUEEN to the attention of the world, but took them a few steps away from prog heartland, and broke my heart.

The album begins where 'Queen II' left off - at the seaside with 'Brighton Rock'. I find this a disjointed song and have never understood why others speak so highly of it. It sounds unfinished, like something off their debut, having none of the lyricism of 'Queen II'. And this, I suspect, was deliberate: the album tries to tackle gritty, real-world subjects, avoiding the fantasyland invoked on their previous record, and the music reflects this. And what on earth is that guitar solo all about? Sounds like nothing more than studio noodling. Sorry, but solos need context, and this has none. 'Killer Queen' is all sophistication and glam, almost 'Queen does Carly Simon', and is to my mind the most successful of their singles aside from 'Bohemian Rhapsody'. The vocals here are astonishing: who else in rock would use that upward inflexion in the chorus: 'She's a killer ... que-een!' The song oozes camp and is over all too soon. 'Tenement Funster' breaks up the party, ROGER TAYLOR getting a chance to sing a pointless rocker of the type he specialised in later in his career.

The album rises a notch with 'Flick of the Wrist', which I first heard as the B side of 'Killer Queen', a song worthy of a single release on its own. This is QUEEN trying to be tough, but they don't quite carry it off - the song conjures up mafia mobsters in lycra, somehow. An impressive instrumental section - BRIAN MAY finally delivers guitar work worthy of the previous album. 'Lily of the Valley' is nice, but has none of the impact of 'Nevermore' - I can't help it, these comparisons may be annoying but they are begged by the structure of the album. The first side is finished off by 'Now I'm Here', the album's second single and a great rock track, with all the bombast we'd want from a QUEEN track.

Sadly, the rest of the album falls away sharply. There's not a track in the last seven that raises even a glimmer of interest. Some of them are downright embarrassing. I can remember feeling desperately disappointed. I've felt that way on many first listens, only to grow to love a record, but not this one. Too many tracks (seven under three minutes in length), no clear focus, studio trickery replacing good compositions (what is that vocal treatment in 'Lap of the Gods' all about?) and no intensity. Songs peter out. Oh dear. Staggering considering what they produced less than a year previously, and a more blatant contradiction of an album's title I've never come across. Sheer Heart Attack? Hardly. Slight frisson of nervousness, perhaps.

Three stars for three great tracks.

russellk | 3/5 |


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