Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Steve Favorite #13: A Night At the Opera by Queen

I'm so sick of referees, it's not even funny. I'm just tired of them. Perhaps it stems from my problems with authority in general, but everytime a ref's whistle blows these days, my brain says, "Holy crap! What now?"

It really started with the Dallas Mavs vs. Miami Heat games. Look, I readily admit that what I know about basketball could fit in an ant's rectum, but I'm here to watch people run up and down the court, not to take free shots because of the slightest graze. And now I'm watching World Cup soccer... I know we yanks are supposed to be slightly stoopid regarding football/soccer, and I would wager that my basketball and soccer intellects are just about equal, so I prove that theory correct.

Here's what rocks about soccer: no commercials! I get on my exercise bike and put on a soccer game, and it's great. I just go. No commercials to distract me unless it's halftime or before or after the game. The other thing I really respect about soccer is the physical conditioning that's required. Those guys don't stop running the entire time! The average NFL player would have an oxygen mask strapped to his face after 5 minutes on the soccer pitch.

But soccer can also be squirrely on the foul calls, with people taking dives and doing all kinds of drama. They fall down, and the way they're laying there squirming around, you're fairly certain they've broken a bone in their leg and it's protruding through the skin and we're going to have to amputate the leg from the knee dow.......... Oh. Nevermind. He's back up and playing again like nothing ever happened. I really like King Kaufman's idea that if you're carried off on a stretcher, you don't get to come back in and play.

But I can tolerate the diving to a point, and for the most part, soccer refs seem to have good bullshit detectors to deal with crap like that. That is, until the Netherlands vs. Portugal game... Crazy! I know a lot of U.S. fans are griping about the loss to Italy, but listen gang, at least we didn't have the reftard from Netherlands/Portugal. He brought the game to a new low... Um, congrats or something?

Hey refs, just let them play...

And you know, it's always a relief to have a piece of music that either echoes or exceeds your emotions. It makes you feel rational. It helps you feel mentally stable to know that someone else is feeling those exact same feelings. And when I've gotten really worked up about someone pissing me off, there's absolutely no better song than "Death On Two Legs" by Queen.

This is an astonishing opener, a raw burst of emotion that still manages to be cool while calling someone (an ex-manager, I've read) every conceivable name in the book... Just to be clear, I'm not telling the refs to curl up and physically die -- it's more like the Yankees fans yelling "Kill the ump!" Back to the song, it's one of the most excellent specimens of the "I hate you, now curl up and die" genre.

So Queen selected this powerful song to open the album. Where do you go next? More anger? No way... You go with a 1920s/30s sound with a vocal effect that makes Freddie Mercury's voice sound like it's coming from an antique Victrola. These elements of musical whiplash are scattered throughout this album, making it a great one for us kids with ADD. From the semi-erotic themes of "I'm In Love With My Car" (which was covered admirably by Frankie Goes to Hollywood) to the cheesy poppiness of "You're My Best Friend" to the vaudeville of "Seaside Rendezvous." If you're the type of person who wants the same genre of music the whole way through, this ain't the album for you.

When I was in high school, I had this album on cassette. It was one of those special releases that had an entire album on each side, so one side had A Night At the Opera while the other side had The Game. I guess having the other side as A Day At the Races would have made too much sense. Anyway, the point of all this old fart rambling is that it was a long-ass cassette tape, and while it was a good deal getting two Queen albums for $7.99, and it was great that I didn't have to stop and flip the tape while I was in the middle of mowing the lawn, it did mean that in the middle of the tape, part of it would get a little stretched out or a little snippet of tape would bend and create a little annoying gap.

So my tape was stretched near the beginning of "The Prophet's Song" which is the start of the section that really makes this album shine for me. In the middle of the a cappella section, their voices would get all warbly, and then at the start of Brian May's guitar solo there was a tape flip that lasted about 2 seconds. But regardless I listened and sang along while I mowed the damned yard...

"Love of My Life." What can I say? Any 15 year old boy who has had a major crush can identify... "Good Company." Never was a fan, but it does break up the somber mood of the second half of the album. Which leads us to...

...the immortal, amazing "Bohemian Rhapsody." Yeah, it's absolutely stunning, even after all these years. I'm not going to go into all the recording stuff and all that, but I do think it's interesting how the album starts with the premeditation of "Death On Two Legs" and ends up with a murder. And yeah, I used to be able to hit the high note at the end of the a cappella section, but those days are long past...

Great musical adventure from Queen. They almost made mowing the lawn tolerable...

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Music Shopping In Well, Cowtown

I love perusing through used CD's. I generally don't have the money to buy a new CD, and I feel somewhat uneasy supporting Best Buy, especially after they slashed prices on all the indie titles in an effort to level a final death blow to the one, maybe two mom-and-pop record stores still open in the United States.

Unfortunately, Fort Worth is not record-store central, so I found myself sadly going through the 250 assorted Phil Collins' CD's at Half-Price Books. But, then, just down Hulen, I found a nice alternative.

CD Warehouse is a chain, and I like to consider myself, not a chain person, but the difference is with the Warehouse's staff. A group of about three guys who a) smoke right outside the door about every twenty minutes b) and otherwise sit around and listen to records or watch music documentaries. Last time I was in there, it was the Charlie Parker section of Ken Burns Jazz.

On my last visit, I noticed a concert bill from Scott Stapp's recent show at the Ridglea, hung upside down with "So many musicians to kill" written in red ink.

Anyway, these are guys who take the time not only to spereate Pop/Rock from Punk/Indie, but also take the time to stock new indie Cd's from bands touring in the area, or the nobodies that I go into the record store to find. Everytime I've been there, as well, at least two of them will get into a mildly heated Sonic Youth-Goo-vs.-Daydream Nation-type discussion. I've found the prices to be equal to or less than the average CD at Best Buy as well.

Anyone else know of a good store in the area.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Red Hot song?

Hmmm... Did the Chili Peppers steal from Tom Petty?