Queens of the Stone Age (1998) ***1/2
The secret to QOTSA is that they play heavy metal as if it were rock'n'roll again - real metal, not boppy hair-metal bullshit: dry, heavy, complex, lyrically non-interested in standard boy-porks-girl fare. Equal parts Sabbath, Hawkwind, Metallica, Blue Oyster Cult, Stooges, Hendrix, Kyuss (lead guitarist/vocalist and for all intents and purposes [as would be made clear on subsequent releases] dictator of these Queens, Josh Homme's former band), QOTSA do have a glammy side, but not nearly as much as their name and unfortunate LP cover might imply. (God, I've got to review something, anything immediately after posting this review, simply to get that unsightly blemish off the intro to my site.) Oh, and throw some Meat Puppets into that influence mix, willya? I have no idea if Homme, bassist Nick Oliveri, and drummer Alfredo Hernandez (only here for one LP! Catch'im while you if you care!) actually listened to the Kirkwood Bros. or not, but their music has the same red-eyed, dry, dusty feel as those other scions of the lonesome desert. No doubt geography influences musical style, as 18th century ethnographers surmised that the skin colours and humours of the races of man were influenced by their native environments. Having only heard one Kyuss album in glancing that left no great impression on me, I've been told that Homme's former band was more experimental and expansive, not to mention also including both Oliveri and Hernandez, which means that the only major lineup change was ditching Kyuss' douchebag singer.
BTW, ever noticed how "I Was a Teenage Hand Model," sucks? I understand that a slice of quirky piano pop may seem like a necessary change of pace when all the other songs on the album sound exactly the same. Well, not quite the same, but sonic variety this album has it not (aside from the general flow of starts-off-really-good but the material on the second half starts growing noticably weaker - the best songs are all frontloaded). Some of the songs are faster (and therefore better) even if none of them chug along faster than mid-tempo, with the exception of "How to Handle a Rope," which is quite speedy and uncoincidentally by far the album's best song. And some of the songs are slower and therefore draggier and therefore suckier. Except for "If Only," because the riff and its interplay with the rhythm section are so darn interesting. In fact, none of these riffs are, generally speaking, all that interesting in and of themselves: it's the band interplay that elevates these heavy rockers to great rock'n'roll. Have I mentioned how tight this band is? Have I mentioned that they can play? Well, maybe that's because every reviewer does. Facts are facts. These guys R-O-C-K in an objective sense. If QOTSA don't make you, through sheer involuntary act of will, curl your fingers into a devil sign and nod your head in a banging rhythm like a slow motion epileptic fit, then I question the validity of your nervous system. Facts are facts. However, that's all QOTSA do or seem capable of, and if you're looking for something other, or more than headbanging heaviosity with impressively complex arrangements and jaw-droppingly tight playing, then seek ye elsewhere.