Review Summary: “Radio Ga Ga,” the first single released from the album “The Works,” proved indeed to be a hit not only with the die hard ‘Queen Fans,’ but with the general public as well. It was indeed a ‘breath of fresh air.’2 of 8 thought this review was well written
By 1984 ‘Queen’ were in crisis (well kinda). “Hot Space” had flopped, and even the bands die hard fans had nearly given up on them. Whether or not this was because “Hot Space” was a bad album or because of the unexpected change from a ‘Rock/Pop’ to a complete ‘Pop Band,’ can be argued upon until your face turns blue. But Queen needed a commercial hit, and they needed it fast.
“Radio Ga Ga,” the first single released from the album “The Works,” proved indeed to be a hit not only with the die hard ‘Queen Fans,’ but with the general public as well. It was indeed a ‘breath of fresh air,’ a song based on the classic ‘1920’s’ ‘Fritz Lang’ film ‘Metropolis.’ It called out for us to not forget the past, (especially the radio) whilst at the same time being weary to how technology can affect us all, and how when something else new and better comes along, (TV, or for today the internet) we soon forget it, ‘Radio what’s new? Radio someone still loves you.’
It also helped that the song was damn catchy, even if it was timed at over 5 minutes (Queen’s longest single release since ‘Bohemian Rhapsody,’) The handclapping section of the chorus also had shades of ‘We will rock you,’ but at the same time, the now ‘well used’ synthesizer sections gives the song a fresh, yet enjoyable feeling.
Sadly that’s how good “The Works” gets. The rest of the album is retreads of what Queen had done before, and there’s the small note of another big hit from this album being ‘unnecessarily’ edited down so much that whilst (and still) being a fan favourite when released as ‘a single,’ the album version leaves you with hate and disgust… but more on that later.
Don’t get me wrong there’s some decent stuff in this album, but mostly all it adds up to is decent. Sadly, in response to the commercial ‘failure’ of “Hot Space,” the band retreated back to churning out ‘Piano/Guitar’ based ‘Rock/Pop’ songs, and although none of the songs are terrible, they are not great either. This is the first ever time on a studio album that Queen were ‘playing it safe.’
The next cut on the album is “Tear it Up,” or “Fat Bottomed Girls part II.” Honestly it’s not a bad song, and the ‘hard rock’ riff at the beginning really works but the ‘Tear it up, stir it up, shake it up,’ chorus really feels like a sequel to “Fat Bottomed Girls;” not a band one mind you, but it just doesn’t have any long term listenability.
“It’s a Hard Life,” (Or “Play the Game II,”) throughout the album I’m gonna use comparisons to other ‘Queen’ songs just to show you how ‘safe’ the band were playing it here, is again a decent love song ‘I don’t need no freedom, there’s no reason to be living with a broken heart,’ Freddie declares ‘operatically’ at the beginning of the song. The rest of the song is basically a simple Piano/Guitar medley, with a chorus that is nearly identical to “Play the Game,” again not a bad song, indeed the effort Freddie puts in with the vocals makes it rather good.
“Man on the Prowl” (Crazy little thing called love part II), is woeful, whilst it’s 1979 counterpart was energetic, amusing, and witty, this version comes out as boring, dull, and best left kept in a dark corner where no one else can hear or see it.
“Machines (Back to Humans),” or “Don’t Stop me Now (Slow) or Radio Ga Ga II,” (Yes two songs sound identical on the same album), even has the same topic as “Radio Ga Ga,” which isn’t bad if:
a) This album was about or ‘loosely bad’ on ‘Fritz Lang’s’ Metropolis, which it is not.
b) All the other songs weren’t either about making love, or banning nuclear weapons, or whatever else sprang up randomly in the few hours it must of taken ‘Queen’ to think up ‘this album.’
c) This song didn’t suck.
This is just ‘another’ tuneless, synthesized rubbish that again promises much but just goes nowhere. There’s a few clichéd lines chucked in like ‘Living in a new world, living in the past’ but they are there for novelty purposes and have zero payoff.
The biggest (And I mean biggest) disappointment of the album is “I want to break free.” Granted the version released as a ‘single’ is brilliant. It has that cool ‘synthed intro’ that coincides with a memorable yet witty synthed solo in the middle. It was wonderful, funny and beautiful at the same time. But what does “The Works” version offer us? It removes all the parts that made it good and gives us an anorexic version of the song. One of the most disappointing moments ever recorded on a ‘Queen album.’
“Keep passing through the open windows,” (Don’t stop me now III) is a tepid attempt at a ‘syntho/rock/Pop anthem,’ it has meaningless lyrics and just leads to nothing but a ‘typical’ we don’t care anymore ‘we’re just in it for the money’ ‘Queen song.’
“Hammer to Fall” (Spread your wings, but for a change done better), is actually rather good ‘rock song.’ It’s about how life would be like after a nuclear attack ‘Here we stand, tall and proud, in the shadow of the mushroom cloud,’ and when the band sings in ‘unisom’ ‘What the hell we’re fighting for?’ you actually, for a change, get a feeling that they actually mean, and not (like they are for most of this album) just placing words of peace and love just for commercial sakes.
The album ends with the delicate song of peace “Is this the world we created” (Love of my Life- Acoustic II). This is actually a good song and again proves that when ‘Queen’ put their mind to it, they can produce some great music, it was a great and sombre way to end what honestly was a sombreless album.
Ok, now let’s ‘Work’ on the recap.
RADIO GA GA
Classic song. One of their best. 5/5
TEAR IT UP
Sounds great at first, but doesn’t have lastability. 2.5/5
IT’S A HARD LIFE
Play the Game II. Nearly as good but not quite. 3/5
MAN ON THE PROWL
Just plainly an awful song. 1/5
MACHINES (BACK TO HUMANS)
This is what happens when you have nothing to write or sing about. 1/5
I WANT TO BREAK FREE
The single release of this version was brilliant, witty and funny. This version is scandalous, makes you feel cheated, bang your head on a table, but most of all… just darn angry. 0/5
KEEP PASSING THE OPEN WINDOWS
Aims to go nowhere, so it naturally goes no where. 1/5
HAMMER TO FALL
Hard rocking, nuclear bombing. 4/5
IS THIS THE WORLD WE CREATED
If all the songs were as heartfelt as this one then maybe this wouldn’t be such a bad album. 4/5
That gives “The Works” a ‘working’ average of 2.33, making it just (And I mean ‘just’) better than “Jazz.”
Compared to others.
Queen II 2.59
Sheer Heart Attack 3
A night at the Opera 4
A day at the races 2.59
News of the World 2.4
The Game 3.15
Hot Space 2.86
So what happened to all those musical breakthroughs in “The Game,” and “Hot Space”? That’s right, right down the drain. This was even a bigger step back than “News of the World;” at least that had some great songs. Although I have no personal hate for this album, I do now realise that the synthesizer’s used on the album, although making it feel different on the first few listens, do nothing but hide the fact that ‘Queen’ had either ran out of ideas or had become a gutless band.