Queens of the Stone Age Albums
Queens of the Stone Age are one of the best rock bands of all time. From their beginnings in the early 90’s metal band Kyuss, Josh Homme and Nick Oliveri have forged a different kind of sound that many classify as “stoner rock”, but is really just well done rock music. Is it often distorted? Yeah. Metallic? Sometimes. Mysterious and melodic? Always. This band will go down as one of the great bands simply because their music is great, and the albums they make are consistent. They achieve spasms of popularity now and then, and there have been numerous side projects (Them Crooked Vultures, Eagles of Death Metal, Mondo Generator, Orquestra del Desierto) but in all the music will stand the test of time because Homme always does his own thing and has a great talent for songwriting. Homme is the center of a band who changes members, purposefully mind you, on every album. In an age where it is cool to like “indie rock” in all its shape in forms, the best band of the 00’s may be the one who has nothing to do with the trends at all, but sets them in their own way.
Josh Homme – Vocals, Guitar
Nick Oliveri – Vocals, Bass (first three albums)
Alfredo Hernandez – Drums (self-titled, Rated R)
Mark Lanegan – Vocals (Rated R, Songs for the Deaf)
Dave Grohl – Drums (Songs for the Deaf, Them Crooked Vultures, Like
countless others; they change every album!
Best Album: Rated R
Biggest Influences: The Ramones, Black Sabbath, Can
1998 – (4.5 / 5) − Queens of the Stone Age
2000 – (5 / 5)− Rated R
2002 – (4 / 5)− Songs for the Deaf
2005 – (4.5 / 5) − Lullabies to Paralyze
2007 – (3.5 / 5) − Era Bulgaris
2009 – (4 / 5)−Them Crooked Vultures
2013 – (3 / 5)− Like Clockwork
Queens of the Stone Age – (4.5 / 5)
This “eye opener” of an album must have been a blast of fresh air in 1998, even though it was far from radio play. A comparison to Kyuss is inevitable, and this has to be a step up in focus. Where as Kyuss was an experimental band in some ways, the word “metal” always could classify their sound. They were a great band mind you, just saying the Queens are an evolution. The album is a milestone of hard rock, sounding like robots playing repeating riffs over these great melodies. Sometimes the melodies can be too repetitive, such as “Walkin On the Sidewalks”, or rather annoying like the screeching sound in “I Was a Teenage Hand Model”, but it is rare that the repeating pattern is annoying, once you get used to the music. “If Only”, “Hispanic Impressions” and “You Would Know” are great examples of this robotic sound, and the songs structures are classic and succinct, so it is always entertaining. After all is said and done, the band just excels at hard rock songs proven by the bulldozing “How to Handle a Rope” and “Give the Mule What He Wants”, and complex waves of distortion in “Avon” and “Mexicola”. I can’t make sense of the liner notes (all in Spanish, thanks guys), but I know it is Alfredo Hernandez who is the drummer on “You Can’t Quit Me Baby”, and he creates a rock drumbeat like no other. An album like no other really, great music to drive or rock out too, just an all around stellar debut and a new kind of elegant sound for modern rock music.
Greatest Tracks: You Can’t Quit Me Baby, How to Handle a Rope, Mexicola, If Only
Rated R – (5 / 5)
Kudos to the Queens. They have made a era defining, classic record. I am positive it will be remembered in years to come, and with good reason. The album ditches the robotic approach of the debut and just flows along as smooth as silk while you listen, most songs tying to the next. Nick Oliveri’s songs blend with Homme’s less-harsh tendencies like no other, and makes the album have a unity to it. Certain songs stick out: the epic “Better Living Though Chemistry”, the little girl lovin’ anthem “Quick and to the Pointless”, and the moderate hits “Lost Art of Keeping a Secret” and “Monsters in the Parasol”. Other songs get mixed up in the flow like the spellbinding “Leg of Lamb”, the should-have been classic stoned groove of “Auto Pilot”. Like any great record, it has outstanding ‘moments’ in songs: the closing horns of “I Think I Lost My Headache”, the heat-searing opening of “Tension Head”, and when the drums come back in sounding dew-drop crisp at minute 4:17 of “Better Living Through Chemistry”. Minor squabbles, the opener “Feel Good Hit of the Summer” gets a lot of attention can be a little polarizing and turn people off to the remainder of the record (though I admit to loving it when I am in the mood), and “Lightning Song” is a minor diversion but perhaps could have been shorter or cut all together.
The drumming is great again, this time by Nick Lucero, and the ever changing cast of the band adds to the intrigue; Homme is the mastermind behind it all of course, certain to go down as one of the best songwriters ever. It is a great experience to hear this diverse record, where almost every song is different from the last but continues in a kind of ‘flow’, where the whole is more than the sum of its parts. Every rock fan should own this album. I only hope there are more masterpieces to come from this awesome band. Oh yes, and the best song comes near the end in the beautiful “In the Fade”, a tender ballad (probably) about rock star excess sung by Mark Lanegan, whose presence increases the worth of any album. Also, there is a nice but not too slick production by Goss and Homme. Rated R is Queens of the Stone Age’s best album to date and one of the best of the 00’s. Burn like a match house!
Greatest Tracks: In The Fade, Better Living Through Chemistry, Auto Pilot, Tension Head
Songs for the Deaf – (4 / 5)
The Queen’s third album is their most diverse so far and it finally achieved them a more mainstream status as rock n’ roll giants. That does not mean it is their best. In my opinion, Songs for the Deaf is their weakest effort, but the first two were classics so the record had a lot of responsibility to hold up. Queens of the Stone Age at this point is Josh Homme and Nick Oliveri, the other guest musicians just help pursue the other two’s ideas, though it is necessary to mention that the drummer on this one is Dave Grohl from the Foo Fighters and formerly of Nirvana. The overall feel of the record has a concept album tinge to it; god only knows what it is about! The first two tracks are standouts: “You Think I Ain’t Worth a Dollar” is a blistering rocker with howling and screaming vocals from Nick Oliveri and “No One Knows” is a more slick sounding rock track than they have done in the past and their biggest single yet. “First it Giveth” is a neat, standard rocker though a little repetitive and “Song For the Dead” has a cool intro, but the next two tracks are rather stagnant: “The Sky is Falling” is painfully boring and “Six Shooter” is, too be nice, some crap. Oliveri can really grate on my nerves with his singing on this album, which he avoided on the last record. A singer that abrasive is hard to fit in with Homme’s relatively cool/chill persona and it destroys any flow the album had up to this point.
Thankfully, the latter half of the album saves it as it’s much stronger than the first side. “Hanging Tree” features Mark Lanegan recalling on Rated R’s “In the Fade”, and while the latter is not as strong as the former, his vocals prove to be a now indispensable part of the band. “Go With the Flow” is another slick single with a beautiful chorus; “Gonna Leave You” is a devastating vampire ballad to an ex; “Do It Again” recalls the carefree rock of Black Sabbath with Ozzy Ozbourne inspired vocals; “God Is in the Radio” is a creepy dialogue recalling QOTSA’s debut album with fuzz tone guitar. In all, it is an awesome four song stretch, petering out with the disposable “Another Love Song” (straying too close to 60’s psych-pop) and the epic title track closer (which they perfected later as a live standard). Songs for the Deaf is so popular for one reason: there is not that much good, accessible hard rock music this year. However, if any band in 2002 deserves praise, it is Queens of the Stone Age. They are making unique hard rock in a time when awful boy bands, teen pop, and nu-metal rule the airwaves. That is enough for this album to be considered great. Only to Queens of the Stone Age and Rated R does Songs for the Deaf pale in comparison.
Greatest Tracks: Go With the Flow, No One Knows, Gonna Leave You, Songs for the Deaf
Lullibies to Paralyze – (4.5 / 5)
“I just curse the sun so I can howl at the moon.” What a line, and what a band. The QOTSA have come back with their 4th album and this time they almost broke up between albums- core member Nick Oliveri was kicked out- so now it is just Josh Homme and friends. At first I was worried because I didn’t know how much Oliveri contributed besides playing bass, but turns out Homme is the driving force behind the band (there was never too much doubt in my mind about that). Besides, the Oliveri songs cluttered up the last record and made it inconsistent. “Everybody Knows That You are Insane” has to be about Oliveri leaving, just admire the line: “You don’t know why you are hollow. It’s because you are”. The song is loaded with lyrical bile and not really the better for it, in fact the opening trio of tunes are kind of lackluster and give the listener a misleading impression of what this album is all about. The first song is short enough not to bother, but “Medication” comes off as a rewrite of “Monsters in Your Parasol” or “Regular John”. Many of these songs are have the typical QOTSA mid-tempo chug with odd guitar and music work, but they are also melodic and catchy like their best work is. “Tangled Up In Plaid” really gets things going, with a twisty, nervy guitar walk that in quintessential Queens; “Burn the Witch” and “Little Sister” provide ample variations of the classic band sound (the latter adding a prominent cowbell!); “In My Head” is sort of a compromise between 90’s grunge bands as diverse as Girls Against Boys and British pop rock like Blur.
Homme incorporates many different influences in his work including Sonic Youth, Pavement and Sabbath (see the “Iron Man” intro on “Skin on Skin”, and “In My Head” is the SY and Pavement). The long drawn-out middle section of this album is most appealing to Sabbath fans I am sure; both “Someone’s In the Wolf” and “The Blood is Love”, show a new kind of epic quality to the band while being super sludgy and slow down the earnestness of the first half while setting the mood of the second half. As previously stated the opening two or three songs could have been cut (this album is an hour long, almost exactly), there are at least eight or nine stellar rock songs on here, and they are all different than previous efforts. Favorites of mine include the futuristic “I Never Came” which sets a new standard for space rock ballads and dirty, soul influenced rock like only the Queens can do with “Broken Box” and “Skin On Skin”. No concept album like last time, just great rock ‘n roll and the darkest album yet from the current masters of the form.
Greatest Tracks: I Never Came, Broken Box, Tangled Up in Plaid, Someone’s In the Wolf
Era Vulgaris – (3.5 / 5)
This is a true transitional record. It took me many, many, many listens to get into this kind of music at all, but know I think I have a handle on it. The QOTSA have turned into a more sincere band for sure but they are also at odds with their old, satirical personality. The lyrics include lines like, “It’s truly a lie, I counterfeit myself” right along side the cringe inducing “I wanna make it wit chu” sums up where I am coming from (hopefully). Ballads, riffs, new experiments, and melodies collide all over the place, making the album a very difficult listen to be sure. Lullibies was poppier than this, it was just also menacing and dark. This record has an edge, but it’s silly rather than serious (like trying to replace Oliveri who’s presence is actually missed). This is defiantly not your usual Queens record – “Battery Acid” and “Make it Wit Chu” plain suck in the middle of the record, while Mark Lanegan is sorely missed on “Into the Hollow” which sounds like something he’d sing! The album time is actually concise at 45 minutes!
People that accused the last album of being overtly serious will love this….except for the fact that every damn song is unpredictable. This keeps true with Homme’s style, and he has kept a similar band line up to that he had on the last record. I’ll put it this way: this is a record that will be fun for old fans of the band to assimilate but was no chance of winning new fans; it’s too all over the place. Take the final song “Run Pig Run” for example, there are two distinct parts going on separately, and then the band runs them into a car crash of noise that sounds very…confusing. If Frank Zappa did metal, it might sound something like that (so yes, parts sound like Primus). Still, if they can make great catchy songs like “Sick Sick Sick” and “3’s and 7’s” along side some of the most boundary pushing music imaginable like “I’m Designer”, “Turnin on the Screw” and “River in the Road”, then bring it on! Prepare to be confused, awestruck, compelled, annoyed, and rocked out all at the same time by this truly oddly structured music. Homme continues to carry his band through the fifth mesmerizing record in a row and he does it with style, confounding as it is.
Greatest Tracks: I am Designer, Turnin’ on the Screw, 3’s and 7’s, Misfit Love
Them Crooked Vultures – (4 / 5)
Them Crooked Vultures is an entirely different titled entity than QOTSA, but it is really just the line up of the Songs for the Deaf album plus John Paul Jones of Led Zeppelin fame on bass. Adding Jones to any line up is a coup for sure, not only because of his prestige and bass playing prowess but also because he has an excellent ear for production (he has produced albums for Heart, Diamanda Galas, Butthole Surfers, and worked with Brian Eno). Unsurprisingly, this sounds like the 3rd Queens album with more of a Led Zeppelin edge, especially in the LZ aping “Elephants”. There is nothing bad about that, in fact I always say we could use a little more heavy rock in mainstream music that seems more and more harmless and squeaky clean with all of these ‘indie’ bands taking over in the late 2000’s. The melodic aspect is also a welcome return in Them Crooked vultures, seeing as the last Queens record, Era Vulgaris, the sound was at times way too disjointed to the point of madness. Here, the straight-forwardness is a good thing, as opener “No One Loves Me” is like two badass super riffs in one song; “Mind Eraser No chaser” is true to its title and recalls early QOTSA at their most direct and punk; “New Fang” is one of those bendy, odd timed songs that only Homme can bring to the table; and “Dead End Friends” bridges Kyuss and Queens together at last.
The middle section of the album tries the most experiments, and perhaps some leniency can be given to songs such as “Interlude with Ludes” and “Warsaw Or The 1st Breath You Take after you Give Up” for at least bringing some much needed calmness and diversity to the table. Still, a lot of the middle-section songs simply do not work, such as “Bandoliers” and “Reptiles”, which come off as rather limp when compared to the beginning and ending of the record. The final one-two-three punch of the album does match the initial trio of songs as well, as “Caligulove” points toward the gloomy future of QOTSA albums, “Spinning in Daffodils Comes” off much better than “Warsaw” did in terms of an epic length rock jam, and “Gunman” is probably the best song on here and quickly recalls other QOTSA classics such as “Better Living Through Chemistry” and “Mexicola”. In all, if you jumped album tracks right from “Scumbag Blues” to “Caligulove” it would be a more consistent listen for sure, (perhaps an accidental commentary on how much longer albums are these days compared to in the 1970’s?) which makes a whole third of the record unnecessary. Too much of a good thing perhaps, but overall a really good album and healthy slab of hard rock that is always welcome from Homme and whoever his cohorts are at the time; he definitely deserves his spot as a band leader next to any of his idols.
Greatest Tracks: Gunman, Dead End Friends, New Fang, Caligulove
Like Clockwork – (3 / 5)
Coming back to the name Queens of the Stone Age after the detour of Them Crooked Vultures (which let’s be honest, is the same songwriter and sound), Josh Homme has calmed down quite a bit. This kind of departure can be jarring for sure but if done with enough confidence can still work, and a more tranquil sound for a hard rock band is not necessarily a bad thing. Unfortunately, this record is only about half a new sound and half an old stale one, as a great number of these tune are simply reworks of older QOTSA songs and sounds. While “I Sat By the Ocean” and “My God is the Sun” are definitely good additions to the cannon, they are hardly revolutionary in 2013. To make matters worse, Homme’s muse seems to be David Bowie (see “If I Had a Tail”) so the confusion between what the album sounds like and what the songwriter is going for is even more present. Think of this as QOTSA’s version of Young Americans. Some tunes try desperately to sound like other artists when inspiration runs low: “Fairweather Friends” is a merging of Blur and White Stripes, and the title track is straight up late 70’s Neil Young. The slower, darker tunes on the album do not work as they once did on Era Vulgaris or Lullabies to Paralyze, as “The Vampyre of Time and Memory”, “Kalopsia”, and again the title track are simply awful. The are tons of guest stars this time around (which also reeks of desperation) like Elton John, Nick Oliveri, Alex Turner, Trent Reznor, many more, but honestly who can tell anymore? The collaborations and tone of the record only work if the songs are good, and while Them Crooked Vultures sounds like Homme was getting recharged, Like Clockwork is as close to mediocre as I hope this band ever gets.
Greatest Tracks: I Sat By the Ocean, My God is the Sun, Smooth Sailing
Compilations (B Sides, Ep’s, Live albums, etc)
Over the Years and Through the Woods – (4.5 / 5)
Well, there is quite a difference in watching something and listening to it, as this band greatly demonstrates by doing both at the same time. Taking different performances form the same venue recorded over different nights and splicing them up in different orders on the DVD and the CD is very confusing, such that the back of the album lists them in one order they never seem to appear in in one place. Sound confusing? It gets that way, but for the most part this is pure metallic enjoyment for the Queen fan. Taking a lot of material from some albums (QOTSA & Songs for the Deaf) and only some from others (Rated R & Lullabies, surprisingly sense it was the most recent). At least the band did not cover their most recent album in its entirety, like most live albums seem to do. The DVD works better I must say, mostly because the drummer (Joey Castillo) totally rocks it out and because the band is very fun to watch. Things like the alien noises thrown into “Regular John”, the man with the cane routine and horn section on “I Never Came” (still the band’s best song yet), Homme ranting about how some guy who throws things at him is a “cocksmoker” at the end of “Monsters”, and the multiple changes in songs like “You Can’t Quit Me Baby” and “No One Knows” that make live experiences unique. If you are a fan of the band, I would defiantly recommend this just to watch some of the best live playing you are likely to see for 00’s bands on the DVD. Also, certain songs are better live then on record (“Song for the Deaf”, “Avon”) and some are not as good live (“Leg of Lamb”, “Monsters”). The album is good too, though it is not quite as nice as the DVD, and both are too long – the DVd runs 2 hours and the Live Album fills up 75 minutes. Still, it is hard to go wrong with the first 4 queens albums, and it is assured if they ever make a greatest hits, it will be beyond amazing.
Live DVD – ****1/2 ; Live Album – ****