"A KIND OF MAGIC." Queen. Elektra. "It's better to burn out than to fade away," intones a deep voice near the end of Queen's new album. These guys ought to know: Since 1980, Queen has come pretty close to fading away, as its sporadic output has been greeted with indifference instead of the enthusiasm their records once inspired.

Clearly, it's time for these art-rock monsters to get serious. So this album begins with a portentous wash of sound, then some massive power chords, then crashing drums, then a roaring guitar solo--all in the first 30 seconds! Then Freddie Mercury starts singing about "one goal . . . one mission . . . one vision," and things really get grandiose.

"Magic" is sadly typical of a band--and especially a singer--that simply can't relax, that pushes all its songs to melodramatic extremes and drains them of any real feeling. Instead, you get overamped cartoon songs that find the band screaming typical Queen lines like "We were born to be princes of the universe."

To be fair, a sense of humor surfaces at the end of "One Vision," which speaks of one god and one heart and one flash of light but ends with the admonition, "just gimme . . . fried chicken ." Of course, Mercury sings it as if it's just another straight line--but then, you shouldn't expect magic from these guys.

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