Once upon a time, the Queens of the Stone Age were the best band on the planet. They had the songs, the attitude, the drive to make albums that could knock everybody out and they had the people: Mark Lanegan who sounded like a villain from a Stephen King novel, Nick Oliveri the unpredictable agro-punker, Josh Homme the captain and visionary of the band, Dave Grohl, Troy Van Leeuwen, Joey Castillo, Dave Catching, Alfredo Hernandez. It was a drug fueled machine that left audiences across the globe in awe. “Songs for the Deaf” still stands one of the greatest rock albums of all time and deservingly so.
Then things started to shake up. Josh Homme sacked Oliveri and “Lullabies to Paralyse” came out: an atmospheric, dark album that lacked the punch that made “Songs for the Deaf” so irresistible. Its follow-up studio-album “Era Vulgaris” was despite its qualities pretty forgettable and I completely ignored “Like Clockwork” after hearing the rather plain “My God is the Sun”. Now there is “Villains” and it makes me want to put on Kyuss’ “Blues for the Red Sun” again.
QotSA have never released a truly awful album, that much is true, and “Villains” is by no means really bad but nothing presented here really makes impact. Somewhere in my notes, I’ve scribbled “just because it sounds interesting, doesn’t mean it’s good” and that pretty much sums up the new album.
The album kicks off very promising with “Feet, Don’t Feel Me” with its quirky but extremely infectious groove. Say what you want about Homme but the dude can pen a groove like nobody else. “Fortress” is an adorable indie ballad that drags on just a tad too
long. “The Way You Used to Do” has a very charming rockabilly feel and also an annoying handclap that sounds very artificial and reeks of drum computer (which given QotSA’s history with excellent drummers stupefies me).
“Un-reborn Again” is a great title but a song without any substance. “The Evil has Landed” could have used a better mix and a grittier tone but that still wouldn’t hide the fact that halfway the song I had almost forgotten about the track before it was even over and “Hideaway” is just boring.
Closing track “Villains of Circumstance” is a track that should have been sung by Lanegan. Homme’s voice is not demanding enough to sing such a brooding dark track and this is somewhat symptomatic for the current version of Queens of the Stone Age.
During the “Rated R” and “Songs for the Deaf” era, Queens of the Stone Age was not a homogeneous collective but a mishmash of personalities and styles. That’s not all too strange if you’re familiar with the now defunct Desert Sessions, the recorded results of Josh Homme entering the studio with befriended musicians and making music together. The friends ranged from high school friends and nobodies to superstars like Twiggy Ramirez and PJ Harvey and everybody in between. The band Queens of the Stone Age was the crystallised version of those Desert Sessions. QotSA in 2017 is Josh Homme and a few lackeys. He is the boss, he calls the shots and he IS Queens of the Stone Age. There are no real contributors anymore but guest musicians. Despite his enormous talent as a guitar player, he has his limits and therefore the