Happy Valentine’s Day! As someone who is terrible with relationships, I always have a bit of dread when it comes towards the 14th of February, and as per tradition, I have been unable to find a date. Rather than mope about the fact that I don’t have a special someone to shower with love, I’ve decided to treat myself. It would be tempting to spend the entire day getting drunk, eating cheese and buying more stuff than I can afford on Amazon, but instead, I’ve decided that productivity is the answer here (although I might be drunk later).
Queens of the Stone Age are one of my favourite bands of all time, and probably the main reason why I started playing guitar and bass; if I’m honest, I do believe that my life would be quite different if I had never listened to them. If this sounds a bit overdramatic, it’s because I’m trying to make an analogy between the love that I feel for their music, and the love that I would feel for a significant other. Not sure if that was obvious.
In the spirit of productivity, I’m going to do a short overview of every major QOTSA release, from their self-titled album, to “…Like Clockwork”. This post will consist of two parts, and will probably be quite biased, but I shall try to keep my head out of Josh Homme’s asshole for however long it takes me to write this.
Self Titled (1998)
QOTSA’s debut release, from a songwriting perspective, is possibly the most straightforward one, but gives you a real flavour of what they’re about, while keeping a few remnants from the days of Kyuss. Most of the songs hinge on a central riff or idea, and the mood of the album kind of goes from dirty, trashy guitar and bass led jams, to slightly more reserved, almost longing moments, which really gives a sense of balance to the album.
The heavier tunes almost make you want to crush a beer can on your head (Walking on Sidewalks and Hispanic Impressions being good examples of this), but at the same time, they have such a strong groove that you want to dance (among other things) to them. The only negative thing I have to say about this album is that it just doesn’t seem to have as many layers as the other albums, and after hearing each track maybe a thousand times, I find myself skipping a few of them half way through, whereas with some of the later albums, I could see myself listening to the whole thing from start to finish.
Recommended tracks: How To Handle A Rope, Mexicola, Regular John.
Rated R (2000)
Rated R opens with Feel Good Hit of the Summer, which is probably one of the most unashamedly hedonistic songs I’ve ever listened to – if you haven’t heard it, just look up the lyrics. After the initial shock factor, I kind of like to think that QOTSA wrote this song with their tongue in their cheek, or with a sense of irony, but I think that at the time of writing, they just really, really loved drugs. This sets the tone for the album pretty well; if their debut was a drunken orgy, then Rated R is a drug-fuelled odyssey.
The vocal work really reaches another level here, with some beautiful harmonies, and lyrics that I would have got tattooed on me by now, if it weren’t for my indecisiveness. Not only has Josh Homme become a more confident vocalist, but Nick Oliveri takes centre stage in a handful of songs, and the excellent Mark Lanegan guest stars on fan favourite “In the Fade”. While the album is arguably one of QOTSA’s more spaced-out and mellow albums, it also features some of my favourite riffs by them, in songs like “Better Living through Chemistry”, and “I Think I Lost My Headache”.
Recommended tracks: In The Fade, Better Living Through Chemistry, Lost Art Of Keeping A Secret.
Songs for the Deaf (2002)
This is probably the album that got most people into QOTSA, and is probably best known for featuring Dave Grohl on drums. Many people regard this to be the best incarnation of the band, and while I would say that their current line up is incredibly strong, it’s kind of difficult to ignore Grohl smashing the skins like they owe him money. Even now, watching videos of QOTSA’s live performances from this era gives me goosebumps. Songs for the Deaf is almost a concept album, with a majority of the songs either starting or ending with fake radio chatter, which is mostly pretty funny, but at times, comes across as if it’s trying too hard to be edgy. These little radio snippets, regardless of how you find the humour, give you a sense that the best way to listen to this album would be at full volume, while driving through the desert in a muscle car.
Almost every song on this album is an absolute powerhouse, and while there are some brief moments of respite during some of the later tracks, there is a sense of intensity and darkness that is hard to match. Despite the praises I have sung for this album, an elephant in the room is “Six Shooter” – while it’s good to hear some Oliveri flavoured madness, I find myself skipping this song almost every time I listen to Songs for the Deaf.
Recommended tracks: Song For The Dead, Hanging Tree, First It Giveth.
In my next post, I’ll be looking at “Lullabies to Paralyze”, “Era Vulgaris”, and “…Like Clockwork”. Things get a little bit weird from this point on…