Songs for the Deaf (2002) ****
Messago to Josh Homme: ou-yay are-ay ot-nay unny-fay. The fake radio station concept isn't nearly as clever as it was the first time around in 1968 (who would've thought up such a concept? Who, I ask you? Who?) Frankly, Homme's sense of humor makes him sound like a douche - you know, the type of smirking douche who would actually use the word 'douche'. Homophobia is for faggots. Anyway, the radio broadcasts are easily ignored, but not so Homme's lyrics: the harder he tries to be clever, the dumber he sounds. Which I'm not sure is preferable to Nick Oliveri's upfront drug-crazed stoopidity schtick, which apparently is no schtick at all - he genuinely is the drug-crazed lunatic he claims to be on "Six Shooters" (the lone track that flat-out s-u-x, and h-a-r-d) and the opener, "You Think I Ain't Worth a Dollar, but I Feel Like a Millionaire," (which does not suck - no, it's pretty exciting).
But who listens to QOTSA for lyrics, man? The only thing we seasoned listeners and zot-faced tweenagers ask from our hard rock is that it rocks. And once again, the Queens deliver the goods. You want heavy? These boys can give you heavy, and heavier than ever before, because on this album the missing link has invited himself to the drum stool: Dave Grohl (famous for....aw hell, you know). His monster truck rally drums pound (and do they pound!) the final nail into the mixed metaphor that is QOTSA's modernized Cream. QOTSA have arguably released their best album ever, and yet.....while the band is tighter, more powerful, heavier, harder, punchier, yadda zinga zooba, it's still a draw with the previous album, as this album has one notable and glaring flaw:
It goes on forever and it all sounds the same.
OK, technically that's two flaws. And every album these days lasts over an hour (fuck you, CD running length), so maybe kids raised on a steady diet of nothing but hour-length CDs have generationally had their ears rewired to accept such lengths without boredom and monotony. I, however, have my ears wired so that 22:22 minutes is the scientifically optimal length for side one, before you switch over to side two. So maybe that's not a legitimate complaint for Gen Y. But the monotony of sound? That is a legitimate gripe. And see how these two flaws compound each other when combined? It's like swallowing sleeping pills on top of alcohol. Anyhow, it's not as if there isn't some variety; but while, "Mosquito Song," is a noticable improvement over their previous ballads (OK, a vast improvement), it comes foolishly as the final song - which does not make the preceding 13 tracks in a row any less monotonous. Maybe it's the unvarying guitar tone - the exact same problem I have with the New Pornographers (the problem, not the guitar tone). It's a problem that in particular seems to afflict a few too many bands of our age. QOTSA try to cover this up with the production trick of dramatic volume shifts (soft, LOUD) but that's annoying more than anything, and besides, PJ Harvey did that to better effect a decade previous.
Now, upon reading this review, one might get the impression that I dislike this album. Zounds! (That means, "God's wounds!" in Elizabethan English. See, that Master's degree study has been useful for something beyond, " 'Twouldest thou likest fries with that, m'lady?") "No One Knows," pounds away with heavy pop hit single sheen; "First It Giveth," driveth alongeth with a most drivingesteth basso profundo line; "The Sky is Falling," mixes goth-psychedelia with Sabbath crunch most heavenly. "Go With the Flow," "Gonna Leave You," and "Another Love Song," (nice '60s-ish roller rink organ [barely noticable at first] in the background) are just excellent pop-garage-metal numbers, and....well, there are good things to say about most of the tracks, aren't there? Definitely more hits than misses (90% last time I crunched the numbers at my day job as an accountant for the Jamaican drug trade). This is more or less as good as hard rock gets in the '00s. Never mind my bitchin' & quibblin'.
Oh, you say the '00s are over? Done? Two years it has been? My, how time flyeth.