Sunday, April 7, 2013

Queens of the Stone Age are coming...

So I'm getting pretty excited about the arrival of a new Queens of the Stone Age record. The first single, My God is the Sun, is being previewed on Monday night (or 4.40am Tuesday Sydney time) but if you're a weirdo like me you will have heard multiple live versions of from their current South American tour. Sounds a bit like the Sky is Falling from Songs for the Deaf with Crooked Vultures break downs. It sounds ok but I think I'll pass proper judgement when I hear the studio version.

However, all of this anticipation has led Queens back into high rotation so I thought I might do a top ten. Now I want to make a caveat - this list is not definitive because the songs I like change hourly and Queens is one of the few bands I've found where absolutely no one agrees on what is their best song or album. For me, Songs for the Deaf will always be a high water mark but I've met fans equally passionate about every other album. I think it's a reflection on the diversity of their sound and the audience they attract. I think everyone agrees that they fucking rock. Here's my top 10:

10: Infinity: Originally released on the Heavy Metal 2000 soundtrack(?!) and then released with the special editions of Lullabies to Paralyze, this songs was floating around between the first album and Rated R. It shows a sonic leap from the first album in terms of ambition and a refinement of the sound they would eventually perfect. It is all repetition, wirey riffs, hushed backing vocals and a devastating chorus. Homme is still finding his voice but he sounds a million more times confident than he did on the first record.

9: I Never Came: For the Halloween-esque bombast of Lullabies, this is the song I return to. As far as I can guess this is the only song on the record that actually deals with the acrimonious departure of Nick Oliveri. It also shows that there is some light and shade to their sound and the song builds around Homme's falsetto. As much as I miss the Nick era rockers like Tension Head and Millionaire, the subtlety and nuance of I never came is the flip side of the band which reveals how great they can be when they turn it down a notch.

8: The Lost Art of Keeping a Secret: I know it's not a popular thing to put a single on lists but fuck it, this is a great pop song. Deftly constructed, great lyrics and always slower then you remember, it's a slow burn anthem for promiscuity and cheaters. I have no idea how they got those guitar tones or those horns (yes, horns) to sound so sinister but there is a dark well of voodoo being pulled out on the Rated R record.

7: Mexicola: This could have easily been Regular John, How to Handle a Rope or The Bronze but in the end I went with Mexicola because it is just so brutal. That opening bass riff, the shining verses and the drag down of the chorus, it is the perfect encapsulation of Homme's writing style which somehow manages to blend dead end stop/starts, sideways digressions, shimmering pop and thuggish  riffing into seamless perfection. The song itself is about Homme being arrested in Mexico and imagining ending up in jail below the border - the threat is as much sonic as it is in the lyrics.

6: Go with the flow: Another single - whatever. When I listen to My God in the Sun, I get concerned that there's too much focus on tricky dicky time changes and digressions. I appreciate good musicianship as much as the next walrus but sometimes I just want a straight ahead rock song I can lose my shit to without worrying about looking like an idiot when some weird time signature comes in. As such, Go with the flow delivers that in spades - 4 chords, melody to burn and sexy as hell. I tend to think Queens hit their lyric writing peak on Songs for the Deaf and there are some lovely phrases across the entire the album including this song. Also, it pays to have a shit hot video.

5: Auto Pilot: Yeah, tell me I suck because I didn't put In the Fade or a Nick rock song here but if there is any song that shows the key contribution of Oliveri to the band, it's Auto Pilot. Firstly, his bass hangs off the beat and is almost dubby in some ways. Secondly, his more laid back vocals are pushed forward revealing the voice that often shadows some of Homme's best tracks. Thirdly, it allows Josh to focus on one of the best guitar lines he's written (that guitar tone too - shit). Also great to hear Lanegan dirty baritone low in the mix.

4: Better living through chemistry: Building on the slow grind of You Can't Quit Me Baby and the psychedelic freaks outs of Kyuss, Better Living is the centrepiece of the Rated R album and sits like a monolithic rock monster squatting in the middle of R's id disrupting the subconscious mindfuck party jams. At times brutal, at other time soothing as a glass of warm milk, this song showed the radical advancement in Homme's abilities as a songwriter.

3: Misfit Love: While Era Vulgaris was a solid record, its centre is the singular peak that is Misfit Love. The song itself is all tightly coiled riffage, hard nosed noise and cooed come on's. It builds and builds and builds and builds and builds and builds and builds until 4 minutes in it releases into a catharsis wrapped around the lyric "Just a dead man walking through the dead of night." At every turn, the song is perfect from the shrill harmonics over the monster beat to the falsetto. Also, it is very sexy and I no doubt imagine a lot of people have had sex to this song... probably.

2. You can't quit me baby: OK, so stalker songs aren't that beloved but when you have a track built on a behemoth bass riff which leads to about 101 seconds (2:43-4:24) of the most transcendent, lovely choruses you'll ever hear, then this is A song. Particularly when that chorus is "You're solid gold, I'll see you in hell." Flawless even with the goofy ending.

1. A Song for the Deaf: Probably a controversial choice but this song has everything that I love about Queens:
a. Sinister bass riff:
b: Fuck off brilliant drumming by Dave Grohl:
c: Mark Lanegan:
d: Stinging guitar lines:
e: Bombast and grandeur:  
f: Great Josh vocal performance with Nick screaming:
g: Great backing vocals:  
h: Amazing lyrics:
Everything right about Queens is encapsulated in this song, it simultaneously threatening, sexy, weird and assaultive. Built on a propulsive bass/drums combo, it is so good that every time I listen to it I can't believe quite how amazing it is. Somewhat buried at the end of the Songs, it is the perfect product of that era of the band and is untouched to this day. Sure everyone talks about A Song for the Dead (which features Dave Grohl's best drum performance put to tape) but this is the really dark heart of Queens of the Stone Age. Don't believe me? Get some good headphones and listen to it, there's more going on there than you could ever hope to comprehend in a thousand listens.

Roll on the new album.



  1. Great Choices! I wouldn't change your list (Partially because it's your list, innit?) but Here's some alternates: - in my head: Josh calls what they do "robot rock", and it fits- this is like Queen meets Iggy run through a Kraftwork machine.
    Hangin' Tree: even minus Dave Grohl's crushing drums, it's the reason why Lanegan and Homme belong together.
    Make it Wit Chu: Yes, I'm cheating because I prefer the Desert Sessions version, but it was also released as a QOTSA song, too. But this is all Vegas sleaze, and drug fueled slither- what could be better? There are bands that have made whole careers based on Exile on Main Street. Only Josh has gone to the ugly black heart of that dark little smacked out bitch, and made love to the corpse.
    Quick and to the Pointless: Not only does it draw the line back to the Dwarves, it obviates Eagles of Death Metal. More menace than goregrind Metal, with more swagger than punk, it also is a live favorite:

  2. All great songs. I struggle with Queens as they're one of the few bands where I pretty much like everything. If we're doing Desert Sessions, I'd throw in Rickshaw for sure.