Crazy lit­tle thing called rub­bish

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Music -

THERE’S a strange, am­bi­ent whine at the beginning of this al­bum that cul­mi­nates in a spooky, un­earthly voice ask­ing: ‘‘ What planet is this?’’ Just who or what is be­hind it isn’t ex­plained, but if I were a bet­ting man I’d say it was Fred­die Mer­cury, some­where in the great be­yond, show­ing an un­war­ranted amount of tact about the drivel he and the liv­ing are be­ing asked to en­dure on the rest of this CD. This re- emer­gence of Queen is con­crete proof that, de­spite the an­cient adage to the con­trary, the show needn’t go on. What we have is two- thirds of the re­main­ing Queen line- up — gui­tarist Brian May and drum­mer Roger Tay­lor — team­ing up with for­mer Free and Bad Com­pany singer Paul Rodgers, not only in per­for­mance but also as co- writ­ers. Pre­sum­ably good taste pre­vented bassist John Dea­con from com­ing out of re­tire­ment. ‘‘ We have the whole town rockin’ to the mighty power of rock ’ n’ roll,’’ chimes the throaty Rodgers on the abysmal opener, Cos­mos Rockin’, a rou­tine 12- bar af­fair that makes Sta­tus Quo sound weighty. The fol­low­ing prog- rock shuf­fle, Time to Shine, is even more em­bar­rass­ing, sound­ing like a forced mar­riage be­tween REM and This is Spinal Tap . It doesn’t get much bet­ter. Most of the prob­lems lie in the fact that in Queen’s glory days Mer­cury could turn the ba­nal ( take the stand, Tay­lor’s Ra­dio Ga Ga) into some­thing glo­ri­ously camp and ex­cit­ing. Rodgers, on the other hand, is a fine blues­rock singer, but it would take more than a sparkly Span­dex uni­tard to get him out of this mess, much of it, lyri­cally at least, of his own mak­ing. There are a cou­ple of ex­cep­tions. The trib­ute to Mer­cury, Some Things That Glit­ter, has a suitably soul­ful per­for­mance from the front­man, while May’s gui­tar riffs and licks peak on the Zep­pe­li­nesque C- lebrity. ‘‘ Next thing you know they’ll be rockin’ out in space,’’ Rodgers squeals early on. ‘‘ Not to this we won’t be,’’ aliens will surely re­spond.

Iain Shed­den

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