Review Summary: Queen's worst non-soundtrack record.
Chapter XI: Haven't We Heard This Before"
Queen's tenth effort Hot Space alienated a lot of the band's fanbase, many believing that the group's dance influence went way overboard. It was certainly a huge departure from the normal Queen sound, being more restrained and poppy than their previous efforts. So what did they do with their next record The Works" They made more hard-rocking tunes again! Unfortunately, they also spend most of the record rehashing their old material and boring listeners to death. That's not to say every song sucks; in fact, the "average" label on its rating is pretty much accurate. It's simply an average album.
On the bright side, there's more of the classic Queen feel on this record than Hot Space, but at the same time they really don't break any new ground. Some traces of Hot Space are still present, such as with the synthrock anthem "Radio Ga Ga," but thankfully things are more downplayed in that regard. As for the good tunes, there are a good few songs you'll wanna come back to, such as "Hammer to Fall," "I Want to Break Free," "Is This the World We Created"" "Tear It Up" and so forth. "Hammer to Fall" is especially fantastic, revolving around a mammoth hard rock riff from May and leading up to a classic harmonized chorus that resembles Queen's 70s heyday. "I Want to Break Free" is a great ballad that benefits from a beautifully arranged chorus; the synthesizers really add a nice orchestral touch, and even have a nice solo in the middle near the song's bridge. "Tear It Up" is your typical hard rocking Queen affair, but "Is This the World We Created"" is really where more attention should be given. The song is based around a beautiful acoustic guitar melody as the band leave us some food for thought at the end of the record; it's a very tasteful conclusion.
But now it's time for the bad, and there's a lot of it. I'll just address this right now and get it out of the way though: I don't like "Radio Ga Ga." It just never struck me as anything special; it sounds like a bland synthpop song that could have been taken right out of an early A-ha record. Not only that, but the chorus is just cheesy beyond belief; the band's chants of "radio goo goo" and "radio blah blah" just seem really childish and unnecessary. The instrumentation isn't really stellar either; it's just a midtempo pop song with no real standout moments. Further into the record, there are many rote rehashes of previous albums by the band. "Man on the Prowl" is a fast piano rocker that tries to cash in on the success of their 1980 hit "Crazy Little Thing Called Love." It has a very similar style, but is simply not as memorable. "It's a Hard Life" sounds almost exactly like "Play the Game," so analysis is pretty limited on that one as well. Finally, we get to the biggest travesty on the record, "Machines (or 'Back to Humans')". It's pretty much "Radio Ga Ga" with even less memorability, and it even includes extremely cheesy robotic vocals that could have fit on Styx's song "Mr. Roboto." The entire song is bland and boring, taking a midtempo pop/rock approach and sucking any life and likability out of it; the synthesizers are merely ok, the vocals seem a bit average compared to Freddie's usual work, and the overall tune just doesn't do much of anything in the end.
The thing is, this isn't a bad record; it's just very, very average. There are amazing tracks and there are terrible tracks, so it sort of evens out in the end. The big negative aspect of this record is how much of a boring retread it is; at least Hot Space tried to do some new things with the band's sound and think outside the box a little. But to be fair, there are some fantastic tunes on this record; "Hammer to Fall" in particular is almost worth the price of admission alone. So I guess this is simply... average. That's about all there is.