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The Cosmos Flops (Like a Sidereal Blancmange)
The Cosmos Rocks - Queen & Paul Rodgers
Member Name: cheffrey
The Cosmos Rocks - Queen & Paul Rodgers
Date: 08/12/12, updated on 08/12/12 (37 review reads)
Advantages: It's called 'Queen + Paul Rodgers', so it can't be filed under Queen
Disadvantages: It's a flabby, misguided muddle of rock mediocrity from people who should know better
The trouble is that Queen were a great band, and lots of people loved them and presumably, like me, were rather gutted when Freddie Mercury passed away (even though I was only 9 at the time) and Queen were no more. We were treated to one posthumous album, as sort of a 'thanks for 25 years' retirement present, but it was time to move on and for a while it seemed that the remaining members knew that they could no longer function as Queen without one of the most distinctive singers in all of pop. Until Paul Rodgers came along and thought it would be a good idea to try to fill Freddie's enormous shoes, and Brian May and Roger Taylor didn't stop him from doing so.
Not that Paul Rodgers is a bad singer in any way - Free recorded some excellent blues-rock and 'Fire and Water' is a classic of the genre. But his white-boy-doin'-the-blues voice never really seemed to be a good choice to sing Queen's songs; I'd caught a bit of them on TV performing live and while it wasn't awful my first thought was 'if anyone should be tackling Freddie's songs it's Ronnie James Dio or nobody...preferably nobody'. But anyway, I can't begrudge three guys in their 60s reliving the fun of playing live to arenas full of fans, even if everyone knows it's really not the same any more. What we can begrudge though, is their taking the decision to record a new album. If only Gandalf had been present at EMI to yell 'YOU SHALL NOT PASS!" on their way to the recording studio.
The opener 'Cosmos Rocks' starts off sounding like 'Flash Gordon' crossed with 'Hammer to Fall', and all sounds very 'Queen', but as soon as Paul Rodgers starts singing it just sounds wrong. And it quickly slumps into a boring 12-bar blues that sounds like it could be any pub-rock band, but with ELO filling in the chorus. 'Time to Shine' sounds uncannily like U2 (not a good thing IMO as U2 embody rock mediocrity bloated by hype), with Paul Rodgers doing that Bono 'wooo-oooooo-hhhh' thing that made the Joshua Tree so damn annoying. The Brian May penned 'Still Burning' is a bit better, with a dusty, grinding blues sound interspersed with the signature Brian May guitar sound and Queen harmonies in the background.
But there are some bits that slump beneath even mediocrity into the outright embarrassing. 'We Believe' is just horrible - preachy, contrived garbage with toe-curling lyrics and it sounds like it's come from some abysmal musical with aspirations to bring world peace through the medium of gospel-inspired rock numbers. Youtube it to see what I mean. 'Warboys' is just as much of a lyrical massacre - "Here come the boys/Here come the warboys/Make some noise/When the lightning explodes I'll pray for your soul"... Its only redeeming feature is Brian May's impression of Jimi Hendrix.
'C-lebrity' is a bit of a toothless attack on our present cultural sickness of celebrity obsessed media, but since Brian May and Roger taylor have turned up on the X-Factor to perform with wimpy boy band 5ive, and have recently been on musical bilge-pump 'American Idol', one wonders who exactly they're trying to convince.
'Voodoo' is an OK Santana-style bit of Latino rock, but otherwise is pretty forgettable. I'm struggling to find anything to enthuse about here... I listened to Queen's imperious and massively bombastic second album, as well as Free's 'Fire and Water' alongside this and while it's perhaps a bit unfair to expect anything of a similar magnitude, 'Cosmos Rocks' really does sound like this band have no great songs left in them. Which is a shame because they don't sound technically bad at all, with them all possessing excellent abilities in their own right, but there is very little excitement to be found at all. They probably had fun making it, which is fair enough. Shame I can't say the same of listening to it.
I think this album really is one big mistake, trying to put together something that will stir excitement in Queen and Free fans, but will always fail to deliver. Nostalgia's a dangerous substance, it can really lead people down paths that shouldn't be trod, especially when it comes to creative output, trying to recapture an old spark or sound that really went decades ago. This is a big slice of mental gateau and custard, just waiting to cause indigestion in the unwary and it would be better to reach for that Live Aid DVD and see Queen at their peak how we remember them. Still, getting nostalgic for your favourite ageing rock bands is less dangerous than getting all nostalgic for actual cake, which would no doubt drive one mad AND fat at the same time and result in a new medical condition known as 'insanobesity'. Let's just hope Queen + Paul or whoever don't make any more albums, before every Queen fan in the world develops type 2 diabetes.
Summary: What happens when nostalgia goes bad (cf. Star Wars prequels)