Review Summary: Queen make one final legendary mark on the world of music... with astonishingly good results.
Chapter XIV: A Fitting Finale
Most bands can only stay in style after so long until the masses reach for the next "big" thing. There's a fine line to tread when being a recording artist, between critical acclaim and how the public will react to the music. Luckily, some artists don't seem to go out of style, and they transcend new trends and ideas. Queen, with the exception of some albums like Hot Space, had this luxury going for them, even going as far as being the 3rd highest-selling rock band in the world (just behind The Beatles and Led Zeppelin). After years of ups and downs, Innuendo is Queen's finale... their last triumph with Freddie Mercury.
One thing you immediately notice about the record when you fire it up is the 70's vibe it has. The band got out of the small rut they had in the 80's and decided to cater to fans of their old material. It was a good move; The band sound more excited than ever on this release despite Freddie Mercury's growing illness. Such excitement is present in the opening title track, a mini-epic seemingly about surviving and persevering through a world of changes. This song boldly defines the band's energy and creativity at work in the album; The track goes through all of Queen's old-school tempo changes, shifting styles, and sly pastiche, as well as a knack for bombast.
Also, when I say "shifting styles," I honestly MEAN it; there's a ridiculous amount of genres utilized on the album, most of them done well. Present are classic rock, heavy metal, opera, symphonic, latin, pop, some folk, and soft rock, among others. Freddie Mercury is suited very well to cater each style with his vocals, and the rest of the band follow suit. Much like the Beatles' last recorded (not last released, that's Let it Be) album, Abbey Road, Queen seem to be making a diverse but cohesive effort designed for the band to go out strong here.
On the heavy side of things, we have "Hitman," "Headlong," and "Ride the Wild Wind." "Hitman" is exceptionally heavy song with an extensive solo by Brian May. Needless to say, this track was certainly made for him, although the solo really wears the listener out due to being a bit self-indulgent. "Headlong" was one of the hit singles off the album, and has a very nice aggressive beginning riff. As with "Hitman," this track heavily features Brian May, although Freddie Mercury gets more input. Overall, the song is very polished, yet very strong. Then we have "Ride the Wild Wind," a very... different track. The band add a dose of speed metal here, yet the track doesn't really feel like "Stone Cold Crazy" off Sheer Heart Attack. This is bit more punk-influenced, along with having some interesting synth work in the background, which effectively supports and balances the guitar playing.
The softer end of things, on the other hand, is a bit of a mixed bag. One thing can be said here: The best ballad of the album is EASILY "Don't Try so Hard." It absolutely slays almost any ballad since 70's era Queen. For one thing, Freddie's voice is phenomenal in the track, specifically in the chorus, and especially for having his sickness by this time. The band does a great job of supporting the overall free atmosphere of the track, which is a beautiful one concerning working hard in life, but having time to admire the beauty and carefree moments all the same. Sadly, the other ballads don't exactly live up to it. "Delilah," an ode to Mercury's cat (What"!), is an overall bland an uninspired track that hardly brings up Queen's signature energy. "These are the Days of our Lives" is a good ballad, but is hampered by the same problem... a lack of energy. It sounds like a tired rehash of some of Queen's 80's ballads (with the exception of "Who Wants to Live Forever," of course), and just doesn't work very well overall.
There's one more song to note: "The Show Must Go On." This song is absolutely glorious; The pitch-perfect chorus, the lyrics about going on and doing your best until the very end, the great (sometimes in a subtle way) instrumental work... everything just works. The song embodies how well Queen could rock, could write, and could play.
Despite so many good aspects of the album, there are flaws nonetheless. One was mentioned earlier: a couple of the ballads. These songs, among some others, also bring about another flaw: some inconsistency in the album. Some of the album feels like a mix-mash of concepts, and an imbalanced one at that; I suppose that it might simply be the track placement that's the problem. Putting a track like "Delilah" in the very middle of the album seems like an odd decision, considering the band would probably want the listener to keep his/her attention on the album to the very end. Either way, consistency is the main flaw plaguing the album.
Even with the flaws though, Innuendo remains to be Queen's best "later" album, and remains a personal favorite of mine. Freddie Mercury wasn't ready to succumb to fate just yet; he had to make, with the band, one final mark on the world. If that was Queen's final mission, then it was a job well done.