Operation: Mindcrime, by Queensryche
Suggested by Dave Parkinson
Everyone wants to be cool.
When I was younger, I certainly did. Still do, I guess. Probably explains this project.
Back then, I didn’t care for bonding with the regular “cool” kids. Most of those were idiots. For me, being cool meant bonding with the metalheads, the mavericks, the mulleted outcasts with bullet belt and bum-fluff ‘tashes. So I bought the uniform and listened to the music and grew my hair as best I could, and soon I was in like Flynn.
When I say “I listened to the music,” I did listen to the music. And I enjoyed it. And I still do. But even in the fringe cliques, the pressure to conform can be great. When there’s so much music to absorb and only so many hours in the (school)day, some corners must be clandestinely cut.
“Do you like Motley Crue?”
“Yeah. Love ‘em.”
– Hate Motley Crue. One song, moved on.
“What’s your favourite Black Sabbath album?”
“… The third one?”
– Couldn’t pick a Sabbath song out of a lineup.
“Have you heard Operation: Mindcrime by Queensryche? It’s amazing!”
“Yeah… phenomenal. I really like… the drumming.”
– Never bothered listening.
Queensryche were very popular with a subset of my friends, and thus they were “popular” with me, even though I’d not heard anything more than the odd single at a rock club. Today, I rectify this decades-old indiscretion.
The first thing I learnt today is that Operation: Mindcrime is a Concept Album. This is a worry, partly because such blatant rock operatics are so often heavy handed, and partly because I’ve one listen and thus I’m unlikely to appreciate any nuance the band are hoping to impart. The album tells the story of catatonic heroin addict Nikki, and his indoctrination and subsequent rebellion from a secret revolutionary society run by Dr X. The lyrics are like thin slices of cheese wrapped around a housebrick and thrown through your mind’s patio doors. I guess at aged fifteen, this would be astounding. Today? Massive shrug.
Musically, there’s a pleasing polished feel to the shiny guitars and twanging bass. It’s an immaculate production, clear as a bell, capturing the soaring solos and proggy intricacies of each track. There’s a feel of Somewhere In Time / Seventh Son Iron Maiden to a number of songs, especially the title track Operation Mindcrime and my standout selection Eyes of a Stranger. And towering over everything is Geoff Tate’s soaring, high-pitched ludicrous Helloween-style voice, which is so damn strong it legitimately nukes the album from orbit. Bizarrely, Tate’s voice is so brilliantly distracting it almost diminishes the other aspects on show. The talented band plink and plonk on their Fisher Price instruments while Tate’s blistering talent spotlights the singer with the head of a collapsing sun.
Operation Mindcrime gets a decent 7/10. With a few more listens and a focus on the story, it could rise a point or more. My biggest regret is that, had I taken the time to listen to this thirty years ago, it would likely be still in rotation to this day.