At the height of the disco boom, some of rock’s biggest stars released club tracks. And although the old guard hated them, those particular Rod Stewart, Rolling Stones, Wings and Kiss hits were brilliant. This is not one of those records. Recorded in the wake of Queen’s surprisingly streetwise chart-topper “Another One Bites the Dust,” 1982′s Hot Space is still routinely cited as disastrous, and this time the haters are right.
It’s not really disco: The vinyl album’s first side features dance-rock that skews in different directions — funk (John Deacon’s “Back Chat”) synth-pop (Mercury’s “Body Language”), and new wave (Roger Taylor’s “Action This Day”). The second side is pop-rock much like what appeared on 1980′s The Game, only lighter: Mercury’s “Life Is Real (Song For Lennon)” pays tribute with a pastiche of the late Beatle’s solo ballads. The disc’s most traditionally rocking cut, May’s “Put Out the Fire,” protest laws that facilitate gun ownership and excuse crimes of passion. But both sides are almost unrelentingly awkward because the tunes are negligible, the performances mostly non-committal.
Released six months before the album, “Under Pressure” is everything the rest is not. It’s mad-catchy: Deacon’s opening bass riff made Vanilla Ice a star when the rapper sampled it in 1990′s “Ice Ice Baby.” The presence of David Bowie, who co-wrote it and shares lead with Mercury, provokes one of Queen’s smartest, most passionate singles. Too bad he didn’t stick around for the album.