Songs For The Deaf
REVIEW BY: Benjamin Ray
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 03/08/2005
I remember listening to arguments in my college newspaper newsroom about Wilco and Queens of the Stone Age being real rock vs. The Hives/Vines/White Stripes being real rock. It wasn't as vicious as a Beatles vs. Stones slugfest, but the smarmy conceit of QOTSA fans reminded me of those of us who prefer King Crimson and Yes to such mindless fare as, say, Neil Diamond.
So this release was supposed to save rock and roll, based on the early reviews, but the final product is more of a letdown. Sure, QOTSA is a thinking man's rock band, a cross between Blue Oyster Cult and the Foo Fighters with a Crimson mentality, and they do rock, but Songs For The Deaf is treated as an inside joke, with only the two-person band understanding the meaning. As such, it's hard to feel connected, and the CD wears thin after more than one spin.
The whole concept is a night of music on the AM radio. Fake DJs appear between songs to joke around, breaking up the songs and monotony, which one will notice quickly because for whatever reason, the simulated "radio" sounds like the cheap Wal-Mart kind. Everything here is flat and quiet, like the musicians put towels over the speakers before recording. It's an odd way to record and it doesn't work, especially with a band that knows how to rock.
The songs themselves tend to get a bit old, as the duo (and studio musicians) rarely stray from mid-tempo power chords. The longer songs are just repetitive with false endings, and for a band that is obviously talented, there are few flourishes here to separate this from standard modern rock fare.
This is not to say the band isn't talented. "No One Knows" won a Grammy for Best Rock Song, and it is pretty good (actually, when I saw the band live, they were playing it until some roadies dumped ping-pong balls on their heads right before the Chili Peppers went on. You had to be there). "Go With The Flow" is pretty catchy, and "God Is In The Radio" has a marching-drum intro and some pretty cool stop-start work during the chorus. The closing acoustic "Mosquito Song" is good as well; there should have been more like this on the album.
However, the worst moments of this disc are just interminable, like the 13 minutes that make up "Song For The Deaf" and "The Sky Is Fallin'." Stuff like "Another Love Song" and "Song For The Dead" are mid-tempo, boring, tinny-sounding and a waste of time.
There is some good material here, but it's not good enough to recommend as a whole. At the time, the creators probably thought they had rock's savior album on their hands, but now it seems like an inside joke by a band who tried to prove they were better than everyone else and failed.