Feature: The Hypnotic, Explosive Sounds of Queens of the Stone Age

Josh Homme of Queens of the Stone Age

Queens of the Stone Age recently officially announced their return this summer with a new album, ‘…Like Clockwork’, and an extensive world tour.

It was at the end of my last college semester when I first heard hints that this was coming and I indulged myself in QotSA.

Like most people at this point, I had heard my share of songs from the band. I’d played Guitar Hero; I five-starred ‘3’s and 7’s’. But never before had I sat down and listened to an album of theirs from front to back. I was sitting in Astronomy, (and apparently, paying no more attention than attending), when I started the bands second album ‘Rated R’.

The first song ‘Feel Good Hit Of The Summer’ built with fuzzed out bass, climbing snare hits, and muted guitar strumming until lead singer Josh Homme’s strung-out croon entered, chanting the names of various drugs. Then it got faster, and louder..with Homme now screaming: NICOTINE, VOLUME, VICODIN, MARIJUANA, ECSTASY, AND ALCOHOL. The dark chant became the happy failure’s anthem just like that and just as quickly my friend told me to turn that shit off because everyone can hear me.

Metal has never been my thing, really. Screaming vocals is something I’m even more rarely interested in. But Queens of the Stone Age has this middle-ground that’s different from anything I’ve ever heard. The lyrics are so muddled and dark: usually about sex, drugs, addiction. With Josh Homme’s tongue and cheek songwriting it becomes escapism for a listener though, a roller coaster for those of us less exhilarated and tested. Another ‘Rated R’ track, ‘Quick and to the Pointless’, brought the claps and rah-rah cheerleader attitude together with the screeches and explosive personality of Homme and his fantasy of a “baby, baby so sweet.”  I’d never been so enthralled by music like this. The first thing I did was burn it to a CD just so I could drive fast to it on the highway. The CD player was in my ’97 Mazda 626 but it felt like I was driving a cherry red 70’s muscle car.

I went on dazed by this quick fix of adrenaline. But as I listened to ‘Songs for the Deaf’, ‘Lullabies to Paralyze’, I learned Queens of the Stone Age still had so much more to offer than the basic fast paced rock group. Songwriting became more unique, song structures became more complex. For every speed injected ‘You Think I Ain’t Worth A Dollar, But I Feel Like A Millionaire’ there was another hazy, head-ringing ‘Tangled Up In Plaid’. Then I heard ‘In My Head’, ‘3’s and 7’s’ and found out that the strung-out band singing about everything your parents frown upon could even be played on the radio.

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This was an all new thing to me. I didn’t think bands could do stuff like this..write ballads for the deaf and scream to rolling drums and chugging bass on the same album, tying albums together with drone-DJ’s “playing the songs that sound like everyone else more than anyone else”. I never heard anyone do it well, at least. And Queens of the Stone Age do it scary well.

It will be six years since ‘Era Vulgaris’, the last QotSA album, by the time ‘…Like Clockwork’ is released. This time the group has brought in long time collaborator Dave Grohl of Foo Fighters and Nirvana to drum on the album, not to mention a list of features that is growing longer every few days including everyone from Trent Reznor and Alex Turner to Sir Elton John.

At this point it’s been so long since there’s been QotSA material that I wouldn’t know what to expect even without the star-studded features. I’m just excited about what this band has put together no matter what it is. Queens of the Stone Age could be one of the most diverse bands I’ve ever heard and I don’t doubt they’re going to shock me again even after all this time.

-JC

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