Sheer Heart Attack, by Queen
Suggested by Bryan Connolly
Queen are aptly named.
Like the monarch, they’ve been around since the dawn of time. Like the monarch, they’re loved by millions and hated in equal measure. And like the chess piece, they’re the strongest on the board, and their music can move in any direction.
Queen’s Greatest Hits spans three volumes. If I asked you to list five classic Queen songs, there’d be such variety in each list that we could name twenty or thirty distinct tracks before we hit a duplicate. But only if we discounted Bohemian Rhapsody, of course, because that comes pre-printed in Slot 1 on the answer papers.
Sheer Heart Attack is their third album, released in 1974, and while reading the tracklist there’s a dearth of what I’d call bangers. Sure, there’s Killer Queen, full of pomp and bombast, but Lily of the Valley? Tenement Funster? My expectations, once high, drop heavily.
The first three tracks do little boost my confidence. Yes, Killer Queen is a track 2 blend of tasty ham and cheese, but the two slices of bread either side – Brighton Rock and the aforementioned Tenement Funster – add nothing to the musical sandwich. Freddy Mercury is untouchable, iconic, so giving lead vocals on two of the three songs that open the album seems woefully misjudged. The rest of “side one”, to use the vernacular, is better but hardly breathtaking.
And then we hit side two.
Side two is incredible.
After spending a portion of side one in the sand, every song on this album’s back nine is a birdie or better. Misfire sounds like a glorious summer day, full of warmth and hope. She Makes Me (Stormtrooper in Stilettos) is breathy and larger than life, late-stage faux Beatles with a psychedelic tinge. And then there’s my personal favourite, the verging-on-thrash Stone Cold Crazy, rocking just as hard as the Metallica cover recorded sixteen years later. I still remember James Hetfield performing this with Queen at the Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert, out of place and floundering without a guitar in his hands. That’s why we’ll always miss Freddie… he made it look effortless.
Sheer Hear Attack gets 7/10 from me. I’d be tempted to give it more, but there are a few album fillers in amongst the gold, and some of my favourite songs are finished before they really begin.
If their other releases are as good as this, I predict big things for this London four-piece.