Queens of the Stone Age

Villains

Written by: MIN on 01/09/2017 12:12:24

Queens of the Stone Age have three truly great opuses under their belt: ”Rated R” (2000), ”Songs for the Deaf” (2002) and, surprisingly, ”…Like Clockwork” (2013). The latter (well, the high quality of the latter) arrived like rain from a clear blue sky; it was a brilliant mix of inventive songwriting, frontman Josh Homme’s unique character and some excellent guest contributions. Whereas “Era Vulgaris” and “Lullabies to Paralyze” both seemed lackluster after the departure of the ferocious bassist Nick Oliveri, “…Like Clockwork” finally felt like an artistic vision successfully come to life, filled with killer riffs, tasty grooves and grand gestures. Fast-forward four years to today and Queens of the Stone Age are finally releasing another album, but let me tell you right now, that no, “Villains” isn’t exactly riding on the wind of its predecessor.

Alas, less will also do the trick, and “Villains” is by no means a bad album – it’s a pretty good one, in fact, but it’s definitely different. Gone are the guest spots and wide embrace, increased are the streamlined grooves and danceable riffs. Surprisingly, British DJ/producer Mark Ronson has taken charge of the production and – even more surprisingly – it actually fits the band’s sound anno 2017 rather nicely. “Villains” is an album where Queens of the Stone Age have decided to let Josh Homme call the shots and then follow his pace; many of the songs find a groove, lock into it and then put some meat on the bone. Album-opener “Feet Don’t Fail Me” revolves around a “Houses of the Holy”-inspired guitar sound, starts at one point and ends at another slightly louder one. The rhythm-section follows as it’s supposed to without ever deviating from the formula, which honestly is a shame when you’ve got a drummer as talented as Jon Theodore (previously of The Mars Volta) along for the ride.

Bassist Michael Shuman, however, gets his chance to shine in the bouncing “Head Like a Haunted House”, where the bass leads the tempo and constantly keeps things interesting. Featuring as one of the album’s more inventive and fun tracks, it also sees Josh Homme have a little fun with the lyrics, as puns and nonsense are ad libitum. Second single “The Evil Has Landed” is also an exciting rock song, where especially the solo during the middle and the up-tempo ending feels specifically designed to get the crowds moving during the band’s next tour. Although Queens of the Stone Age aren’t exactly reinventing themselves, these songs prove that reinvention isn’t a necessity in order to have a good time.

It’s not all fun and games, though: fourth track on the album, “Fortress”, slows down the pace for a while as Homme pours his heart out. Although the metaphor of one’s heart being a fortress about to cave in feels a bit sought, Homme’s ability to sing a chorus and throw a curveball makes up for it in this Bowiesque ballade, proving once again that Queens of the Stone Age has a unique sound whether on top of their game or not, mainly by virtue of the band’s spectacular primus motor. The aforementioned “Head Like a Haunted House” then gets you dancing once again before leading into the album’s centerpiece, “Un-Reborn Again”. A song criticizing young people’s behavior (drugs and social media), “Un-Reborn Again” isn’t particularly special through it’s lyrical topic, but mainly due to being the album’s most dynamic song. With a pre-chorus sounding like a young, yearning David Bowie (yes, again) over a crunchy guitar riff, the transition to the chorus flow effortlessly yet admirably as Homme sings: ”Frozen in pose, locked up in amber eternally // Buried so close to the fountain of youth you can almost reach”. As the saxophone hits by the end of the song, one can’t help but feel like it’s an intended nod to the Thin White Duke.

Unfortunately, “Villains” also have its fair share of forgettable songs. “Domesticated Animals” feel rather uninspired, and the synth-driven “Hideaways” sounds more like a practice of exterior than a search for a good melody due to its lifeless tempo and Troy Van Leeuwen’s preference for keys. Ultimately, Queens of the Stone Age’s latest album is a mixed bag that mostly consists of good rock songs and ballads, but without any of the highlights of the band’s past grandeurs. No songs are as gasoline-fueled as “Feel Good Hit of the Summer”, as muscular as “A Song for the Deaf” or as gorgeously theatrical and engaging as “I Appear Missing”. “Villains” is a decent addition to these former stoner-rockers discography, but with the exception of a few songs, I’m not sure how often I’ll revisit it compared to most of the band’s previously released material.

7

Download: Un-Reborn Again, The Evil Has Landed, Villains of Circumstance
For The Fans Of: Eagles of Death Metal, Them Crooked Vultures, Arctic Monkeys, David Bowie, Iggy Pop
Listen: Facebook

Release date 25.08.2017
Matador Records


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