Queens Of The Stone Age reduce free on Villains

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Photograph: Andreas Neumann

Subsequent yr will mark 20 years because the first Queens Of The Stone Age album. The success it’s garnered over that point locations the band into an esteemed class, the place competition headlining slots and radio spins are a given with every new album cycle. But it surely’s value remembering that this wasn’t at all times the case. Queens was born out of the hazy stoner-rock chief Josh Homme made along with his earlier venture, Kyuss, creating an analogous cult round its self-titled debut and Rated R. It wouldn’t be till Songs For The Deaf, with “No One Is aware of” and “Go With The Move,” that the band had its first brush with bona fide hits; on Lullabies To Paralyze, it struck gold once more with the smash “Little Sister.” By 2005, QOTSA had turn into mainstays on the charts and MTV, toured the world, welcomed contributors like Foo Fighters’ Dave Grohl and ZZ Prime’s Billy Gibbons into the fold, and even had Will Ferrell take part on cowbell on Saturday Night time Dwell. Out of the Southern California desert bloomed considered one of onerous rock’s most fun—and broadly palatable—establishments.

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However arguably, crucial stretch of its profession got here between albums 5 and 6. Launched in 2007, Period Vulgaris was a disappointment by each metric. None of its singles cracked the highest 20, and opinions had been surprisingly tepid. A six-year recording break adopted, throughout which Homme dabbled within the high-profile facet venture Them Crooked Vultures and handled well being points that left him bedridden, depressed, and near retiring from music altogether. It was honest to wonder if Queens Of The Stone Age had peaked. However with 2013’s …Like Clockwork, the band didn’t simply rebound; it jumped to a complete new aircraft. Not solely was it QOTSA’s first No. 1 album, but it surely returned the group to radio’s good graces and picked up three Grammy nominations within the course of. Impressed partially by Homme’s sickness (and echoing its title), there was a workmanlike consolation to the recording, as if Homme had been transferring on as if the droop of Period Vulgaris had by no means occurred. It felt like he was adopting the “dwelling on borrowed time” philosophy of those that have survived near-death experiences, and utilized its swagger to his band.

That restored confidence is everywhere in the new Villains. Having crawled his solution to the highest, been humbled, then climbed his method again, there’s a sure, pure ease to Homme nowadays. Lead single “The Manner You Used To Do” serves as a microcosm for that angle: It swaggers with out the necessity to show itself, its free, playful guitar noodling distinctive sufficient to qualify as a hook. When Homme lets the music drop away to ship the titular line, it’s catchy in a method that doesn’t a lot announce itself as creep up behind you.

That doesn’t imply Villains is and not using a little preening. Opener “Ft Don’t Fail Me” lifts off with dramatic synthesized brass that’s equal components Hudson Mohawke and John Williams, supported by an elastic bass line and Homme’s dance-floor-ready proclamation: “I simply gotta transfer.” On “The Evil Has Landed,” Homme dives into prog territory with feisty guitar solos, untamed harmonies, and fuzzed-out riffs. It’s playful in a method that the band not often is, underscored by the blitzing, one-minute punk coda that might have been lifted straight from Songs For The Deaf.

However whereas Villains proves Homme isn’t brief on musical concepts, his vocals are on much less certain footing. “Domesticated Animals,” finds him making an attempt to suit the phrase “revolution” into too small of an area and singing explicitly about buried treasure. On “Fortress,” Homme flubs a fragile falsetto whereas the lyrics solely spotlight the track’s drained titular metaphor. On the entire, Villains isn’t Homme’s strongest assortment of songwriting. That stated, it’s the primary Queens Of The Stone Age album the place the sounds behind it are persistently sturdy sufficient to hold the load.

A few of this could most likely be attributed to Homme’s more and more busy schedule as a session participant, together with latest gigs with Iggy Pop and Girl Gaga. Some can be definitely due to the serving to hand of mega-producer Mark Ronson, whose retro-soul and slick funk tendencies floor on the strings and horns flooding “Un-Reborn Once more.” Whether or not it’s the theremin in “Head Like A Haunted Home,” the handclaps that drive “The Manner You Used To Do,” or the smattering of keyboards all through, there’s sufficient right here within the particulars to captivate, even when the songs themselves are skinny. If that is certainly borrowed time for Homme and firm, Villains finds them benefiting from it.

Buying Villains via Amazon helps support The A.V. Club.

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