Villains

Queens Of The Stone Age

Matador, 2017

REVIEW BY: Benjamin Ray

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 08/31/2017

What in the world is going on here?

First, Foster The People sullies their good name by releasing a disco dance record that I have no desire to hear a second time. Then, Arcade Fire sullies their good name by releasing a disco dance record that I really have no desire to hear a second time. Now, Queens Of The Stone Age has offered up its seventh studio album in 20 years and it, too, is a dance-rock record with little in common with the band’s previous albums.

Truth be told, it’s nowhere near as bad as those other two – actually, it’s quite good – making one wonder if Josh Homme is following trends (a first!) or because Mark Ronson was available to produce and, hey, “Uptown Funk” was a fun song. Regardless, this is certainly the most fun Queens have been in a long while. There are more than a few moments that recall their ‘99-‘02 era of peak fortunes and best music.

On first spin, it’s a bit confusing. You may be tempted to dismiss it as either fluff or too far removed from my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Songs For The Deaf to be worthwhile. But given repeated listens, the details and the hooks sink in and the retro influences reveal themselves as part of the fabric. And Ronson, for his part, cleans up the pot smoke haze surrounding this band a little bit but keeps the heaviness and weirdness intact; nobody else sounds like this.

“Domesticated Animals,” for example, prides itself as a three-chord stomper but reveals an off-kilter David Bowie sensibility (not least in Homme’s singing) and the stoner rock mythos that has followed Queens since they arrived from the ashes of Kyuss. “Feet Don’t Fail Me” takes a long time to get going, building up like some sort of Dungeons & Dragons epic before exploding into a jaunty yet grounded stomp that truly swings. Occasional cheesy synthesizer line aside, it’s unmistakably QOTSA, but with a grin and an uncharacteristic earnestness as Homme tells the story of how rock saved his life.

The songs clock in between five and seven minutes, which is not terribly necessary given the intended sound and scope of the project, and the disc predictably hits a rut around the midsection. Not that the pensive “Fortress” or “Un-Reborn Again” are bad songs, but they are a bit slower and more standard Queens than the rest of the disc, at odds with the rest of the project and with the three-minute B-52’s-meets-QOTSA rave-up “Head Like A Haunted House,” which is as goofy as it is catchy.

“Hideaway” kicks off the final triptych of the disc, a midtempo, icy Krautrock piece with plenty of Berlin Bowie and ‘80s synth influences. This then gives way into the hooky, riff-heavy “The Evil Has Landed,” the best fusion here of Songs For The Deaf and the dance impulses now firing this band. Homme plasters guitars all over this one, rendering it a cross between SFTD’s “You Think I Ain’t Worth A Dollar” and “Scumbag Blues” from Homme’s 2009 side project Them Crooked Vultures. It would have made a splendid closer, but “Villains Of Circumstance” gets that position, which captures a more epic prog feel at odds with the poppier elements earlier in the disc but tends to spin its wheels instead of really move the way "Feet Don't Fail Me" does.

So we end up with a disc with multiple layers but only one personality. There is no doubt as to who this band is, and the more you unpack, the more you enjoy it. Take note, other rock bands who are embracing dance to remain relevant. This is how you do it.

Rating: B

User Rating: Not Yet Rated


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