09 November 2018 (released)
19 October 2018
Gabe Lopez’s new album “God Bless the Queens” has a title that gives a good idea of the music inside. His style takes some cues from the playful electronic touches, fuzzy guitar melodies, and energetic showmanship of ‘70s glam rock bands—the most famous of which was, of course, Queen. The songs on “God Bless the Queens” alternate between jolly pub-esque rock tunes and moments of poetic melancholy in a way that can recall Freddie Mercury. But while it tips its hat to the past, this is also a very contemporary album, with a polished dance-pop feel that manages to coexist comfortably with the more rock-like elements.
The first track, “Firestar,” is one of the more conventional pop songs on the disc, built around a piano hook and lyrics of compassionate encouragement. It’s easy to compare to Katy Perry’s “Firework” from several years ago in terms of content, and while it may not be my favorite part of the record, I’m sure its message of earnest inspiration will find fans. The next song, “Karma Kamikaze,” switches gears just as quickly as its title implies. It’s a bitterly funny love song that takes us more into alternative rock territory, with a twangy bassline and a hand clap beat. I love rock music that has a densely layered production sound, and “God Bless the Queens” offers that in spades throughout its run. “Karma Kamikaze” grabbed me right away with its background strains of distorted guitar accompanying the verses. “Lasso,” following on after that, takes on one of the most tried and true topics in rock music: a painful, messy love affair that’s nevertheless irresistible. “Lasso” lets us know that it’s not screwing around in the first few seconds, with the opening lyrics of “baby, my wrists are cut, I’m bleeding.” The relationship in the song gets compared to other unpleasant fates as well, like being lost in the desert and lassoed around the neck—Lopez has many talents, but his knack for darkly funny songwriting is near the top of the list.
This is a record that avoids being pegged into just one genre, and the track “Imitation of Life” is an example of that variety. After two previous songs with a blues rock-esque feel, it opens with synths that could be in a Diplo song and segues into a post-punk revival vibe not unlike Neon Trees. Carrying on with the romantic fatalism of the previous tune, it ends with the memorable lyrics “probably a love collision, but what a pretty wreck to make.” If “Imitation of Life” gives a nod in the direction of 80s new wave, “Vivian and Valerie” goes all in for maybe the highlight of the album. A compelling ballad about the lives of two Valley Girls is married with a synth hook reminiscent of the Tears For Fears classic “Head Over Heels” (which, if you were a high schooler in the early 2000s, will immediately take you back to Donnie Darko). “God Bless the Queens” is a strong fusion of clever lyrics and great production, which has made me a fan of Gabe Lopez.