CD Review: Killer Queen isn't killer at all

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Every now and then, one must set aside the worries of the day to ponder matters of great significance: Why are we here? Where do we come from? Does anyone actually thing Seann William Scott is a decent actor? Why do labels release so many tribute albums?

Get ready to ponder that last one again this month when Hollywood Records releases a tribute to one of the most creative and original stadium rock band of the twentieth century, Queen. Killer Queen isn't the first Queen tribute album, but it is the only one to feature mainstream acts, including the Flaming Lips, Joss Stone, Sum 41, and Jason Mraz. As with most tributes, you'll get a tour of the band's biggest hits, as well as some slightly more obscure tracks. And also like most tribute albums, it's sometimes barely worth hearing.

Shinedown's cover of "Tie Your Mother Down" sounds like an over-the-hill dive band covering Bad Company. Antigone Rising's "Crazy Little Thing Called Love" belongs only on the cesspool that is pop country radio. "Sleepin' on the Sidewalk," becomes a stumbling ZZ Top b-side in the hands of Los Lobos. The most unlistenable tracks come courtesy of Joss Stone, who's remake of the David Bowie duet "Under Pressure" could easily be rivaled by anyone playing Karaoke Revolution. Breaking Benjamin give a decent effort on "Who Wants to Live Forever," but their neo-grunge is no match for Queen's genius.

Killer Queen isn't completely worthless. Josh Homme (Queens of the Stone Age) and Eleven do a decent version of "Stone Cold Crazy," although they sound a little like Velvet Revolver. Quality indie-rock act Be Your Own Pet, contribute a great, although uneven, cover of "Bicycle Race." Rooney's "Death on Two Legs" bounces and moves as well as the original, thanks partially to vocalist Robert Carmine's range. Most surprisingly, Sum 41 actually pulls off the piano rock of "Killer Queen," although you'd never recognize the band without the liner notes. The Flaming Lips doing "Bohemian Rhapsody" is as good as you'd expect; the pairing sounds natural, but uninspired.

Mr. A to Z's "Good Old Fashioned Loverboy" and American Idol Constantine's "Bohemian Rhapsody" (with the help of the Las Vegas cast of the musical We Are the Champions) are the most faithful to the originals. Such loyalty is appreciated, but feels empty. It seems pointless to re-record a song exactly as it's been done before. Like most tribute albums, Killer Queen suffers from a lack of purpose (other than turning an easy profit) and creativity. The recording industry might have better paid homage to Freddy Mercury's legacy by making a large donation to AIDS research.

For those who were hoping for something more adventurous, or even downright disrespectful, check out Three One G Records' Dynamite with a Laser Beam, which features noise-rockers The Blood Brothers, Melt Banana, The Locust, and other like-minded acts twisting Queen songs into an oddly beautiful cacophony.

Queen fans can also look forward to (or dread), next year's world tour, featuring aging Bad Company-vocalist Brian May, which makes about as much sense as Ingram Hill covering "39," but boasts much less potential.

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