When it comes to making solid, straight up rock & roll, it is pretty damn tough to beat Queens Of The Stone Age. I was a bit late getting into the band, with Songs For The Deaf as my introduction to all things Josh Homme. That particular album still ranks high on my list of favorite albums, especially with Dave Grohl's maddening drum intro on the title track. Although Homme has lost a bit of the bite of his earlier records, his latest, Era Vulgaris, is still a tasty slice of stoner rock.
The album begins with an odd monk-like chant, giving way to a distorted drumbeat and fuzzy synths. "Turning On The Screw" is a strange, segmented track that easily switches gears from cool indie rock to Steve Reich repetitiveness towards the end. The looping guitar nearly drives you insane, even more so once the drums kick in to double-time. Will it ever stop? Homme still has no problem fucking around with his listeners, and ya know, we're cool with that.
When QOTSA rockets into "Sick, Sick, Sick," that's when Homme whips it out to show he still means business. Easily one of the raddest rock tracks of the year, their use of rhythm brings back some of the better moments from the previous Queens albums. The layered vocal harmonies and stacked guitars show three musicians totally in their element. Homme, Troy Van Leeuwen and Joey Castillo gel perfectly. The Strokes' Julian Casablancas is supposedly singing on the chorus, but with all the layers of noise, he is definitely buried in the mix. After this one, the rest of the album could have sucked and it wouldn't have mattered, but that is totally not the case.
"Into The Hollow" slows down the tempo just a bit, falling into a strong groove as Homme's falsetto vocals soar. This is the type of track that can give you chills, especially as the guitars and vocals join forces during the chorus. It is simply brilliant. Another interesting down tempo addition to this album is "Make It Wit Chu," which die-hard fans might recognize from Homme's Desert Sessions Volume 9 & 10. The song is pretty much the same as the first time around, just given a fresh coat of paint, which is honestly all it needed.
"3's & 7's" gets QOTSA back into rock mode, with one of the more straight-forward tracks on Era Vulgaris. The guitars are tight and under control, Homme's vocals are dead on, once again proving how sick of a rock & roll machine this band is. There is no doubt that Queens are just as odd, relevant and kick ass as ever. This might not be their absolute best album, but it ranks up there.
"Sick, Sick, Sick"