Queen’s Roger Taylor could try harder

January 8, 2010

Roger Taylor: The Unblinking Eye (Everything Is Broken)  packshotIn this day and age of popular music recycling the same old themes of partying, love, boasting about how great one is (Kanye), it’s nice to have a genuine protest song. Too bad the new single by Roger Taylor (of Queen fame) comes across self-consciously lame. 

Last week, I got the press release for the new single “The Unblinking Eye (Everything is Broken)” by Taylor, which had its official physical release in the UK on Jan. 4. You can get it by clicking here.

 In the release, Taylor sounds like a genuine grouchy old man, which is great: 

“…In case you hadn’t noticed…We are fighting a pointless war which is killing our young soldiers and which we simply cannot afford….the nation is not only broke but utterly bankrupt…we are spied upon by 5 million cameras…We have thousands of petty rules and regulations – more than ever before – no wonder people are bewildered and confused…As a nation we own almost nothing including “our” water, electricity, gas, airspace and major manufacturers. Personal privacy is non-existent. We are directionless.

“I’m p*****d off – you should be too.”

 Good for him, I say. Heck, even the surreal, impressionistic, introverted weirdness I like to hear in music by bands like Flaming Lips and Grizzly Bear, doesn’t hold a relevant candle to the ideas in this new song.

 But after initially preparing to praise this new single, the quality of music and writing behind it just left me embarrassed for him. It has no hook and a plodding, meandering, over-literal sensibility, something aging, jaded rockers are all too prone to falling into.

 Too bad this kind of single won’t climb up the charts anytime soon because the wrting is so weak, but God love Taylor for the effort. This was the guy who wrote “Radio Ga Ga” (get it on Queen’s Greatest Hits I & II) as a statement against the growing vapidness of radio (which has only grown more grotesque these days). It did climb the charts to popular status back in the 80s.

“Radio Ga Ga” ironically inspired the stage name of one Lady Ga Ga, whose subject matter consists of sexual entendres and relationship clichés, but she is also taking her music, not to mention her “act,” to another level by satirizing the current fame-hungry popular culture. The title of her debut album the Fame Monster seems to wink to this idea as much.

Then, you have Green Day, a pop-punk band who rail against things like “the leadership” and consumerism while continuing to top the charts. Their American Idiot concept album is now headed to the stage, which is more than any progressive rock band has ever achieved (and I am a fan of work like Pink Floyd’s the Wall, which was at least played out by an all-star cast in Berlin during the fall of the Berlin Wall, which is available on DVD).

So there is smart protest music out there, just, come on, let’s not make it so ham-fisted. Anyway, hear and see “The Unblinking Eye” for yourselves, and feel free to chime in if you can defend the execution behind this new single: 

(Copyright 2010 by Hans Morgenstern. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.)

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