Friday, January 29, 2010

A Very Special Queen Song of the Week: The Unblinking Eye (Everything is Broken)

To say that I was not pleased with RT and Dr. May yesterday is certainly an understatement. Because Dr. May is currently obsessed with his stereoscope project and banning fox hunting (WTF?), I'm afraid that in my mind most of the blame for the "Jedward Fiasco" fell on RT (whether or not that is necessarily true). So today it seems really appropriate that I'm featuring RT in my Queen Song of the Week because this is exactly the type of project that I wish the boys would focus their attention on as opposed to karaoke contestant alliances (*ahem* You boys know who I'm talking about and I don't just mean Jedward.)

Okay so I will admit that this is not a Queen song, but it is a Roger Taylor song and, even more exciting, it is new. RT has released four solo albums during his career, the most recent being in 1998. Sometime soon after that album came out (Electric Fire - which is amazing and everyone should own!), he said in an interview that his solo career was likely over. This was sad news because RT's songwriting has been steadily improving over the years and his recent stuff is his best. But then last November, he announced that he was working on a single. The single was released for digital download (which I purchased) and then he released a special limited edition hard copy CD of the single. I initially didn't understand the need for the hard copy, but then found out that RT was actually paying for and manufacturing the CD on his own (i.e. no record company involved). My overactive imagination took this one step further as I imagined him sitting at his desk in London, burning CDs, and handwriting address labels. When my sister mentioned that he might even have licked the envelope, I frantically checked the Queen Online Store, saw that copies were still available, and ordered one of my very own.

The package arrived on Saturday and I swear the unsophisticatedness (that's a word, right?) of the whole thing has me even more convinced that RT might have actually actively had something to do with the creation of my little ole' CD. The envelope the CD came in is the type you can buy in bulk at Staples. This is a link to the actual company that made the envelope. Now do not tell me that RT did not go to the store and buy these himself because he did. Case closed.

Now, onto the customs declaration. That signature at the bottom definitely could start with an R, right?

On to the CD itself. The first thing I noticed is that it isn't shrink wrapped. I opened the envelope (very carefuly, of course) and there was the CD.  It' a slimline jewel case (not a typical commercial CD case). It is the exact kind of burnable CD that we have here in our home office.

The liner notes are also printed on regular shiny paper. They come out of the case and are solid white on the interior as it they were just run through a copier (RT's copier perhaps?)

I'm glad I purchased the hard copy of the CD. Obviously RT is not doing this for the money. It is a limited edition (the rumor is 1000 CDs have been pressed) and probably cost a few thousand dollars (or pounds, tee hee) to manufacture. I paid about $12 including shipping for mine because I live in the U.S. so best case scenario he stands to make $12K minus however much it cost to make. That's basically a drop in the bucket when you're RT. So I'm pleased he decided to release the hard copy, thrilled he decided to release the song in the first place, and downright giddy at the rumors that he is working a full album to release later this year.

Ah, yes, the song: The Unblinking Eye (Everything is Broken), written and performed by Roger Taylor, was released as a digital download in November 2009.  A limited edition hard copy of the CD was released in December 2009.

I like it a lot. Yes, it is very political. That's a trademark of RT's solo music (Nazis 1994, anyone?). I don't find these lyrics too over the top myself - I actually find it interesting that while he is singing specifically about life in the U.K., many of the lyrics parallel exactly what is going on here in the U.S. ("This kingdom's not united. Just a complicated mess." - hmm substitute states for kingdom and I think our boy is onto something).

Another trademark of his music is that he really doesn't hide the ball with his lyrics. If he has something to say, he says it outright; no need to decipher any of his lyrics. That means that often he finds himself in a situation where he needs to rhyme something with Afghanistan, as he does in this song. I just chalk this up to him not taking himself too seriously as an artist. He says what he wants to say and if that means using the word concubine or talking about "the way you boil your eggs", then so be it (yeah I'm not making those two examples up hence the links).

What I find extremely impressive is that RT plays all the instruments on the song. The video showcases him on guitar, drums (of course), piano, and stylaphone (which gets its own solo!). I've heard some folks complain about the synthesized violins but I like them. I think they add to the haunting element of the song. (I remember years ago Scott Weiland from Stone Temple Pilots using the same effect on his solo album and I really liked it then too so maybe I'm a little biased.)

The chorus in particular is really catchy. The verses took a few listens for me to warm to, but I like them just fine now. When he originally announced the release, he had a minute and a half snippet available as a preview. I listened to it and immediately thought, "That sounds like the end of the song," so I was pretty pleased with myself when I turned out to be right.

The CD contains three tracks: the original single The Unblinking Eye (Everything is Broken), the instrumental version of the song titled The Unblinking Eye (Everything is Broken) - Almost Completely Nude, and the music video. RT encourages fans to write their own protest song with the instrumental version. Early reviews were that the instrumental version was great and I agree. It's nice to listen to all the different instruments and elements RT used in the creation of this song and there are some great moments where he utilizes feedback to suggest portions of his own lyrics (Does that make sense? What I mean is that you can hear him singing the words, but in a echoing/feedback way.) It's not typical the RT style singing down the telephone element though (or maybe it is the exact same thing, but I like it here because it adds to the instrumental version of the song rather than taking away from the full version). That's also not to say that I don't occasionally enjoy some of RT's soundboard antics, but use them sparingly, dear. Sparingly.

Overall, it's a good song. It is really too bad that his solo stuff has never caught on because it really is very good (with some dodgy moments, I'll admit). There's talk that he might do a tour with Taylor Hawkins of the Foo Fighters later in the year which would definitely open him up to a larger audience which is never a bad thing. In the end, I'm just glad that he's making new music for fans to enjoy because I can only play Man on Fire so many times in my car before I get a little sick of it. Sorry, RT!

See, RT, you don't need Jedward or other pseudo-c-lebrities (to use your own phrase!). Release an album and go on tour - us fans will be there to support you! Now if we could only convince the good Doctor to put down those silly OWLS...

1 comment:

  1. Aw and here's a redeeming story about Dr. May too - you can't stay mad at these boys for too long!