First album in three years, it’s safe to say Queens of the Stone Age are back. Their music interlocks through groove rock, heavy metal and even “folk like” lyrics. Everybody knows that Josh Homme tells a great story through his lyrics. Having seem QOTSA on their “…Like Clockwork” tour and being a fan since my early teens, I was intrigued to hear what this new album would sound like. Produced by Mark Ronson, a lot of the die hard Queens fans were a bit scared to see if they were going down the more “pop” route, but “Villains” is certainly not a pop record. It’s dark, twisted and heavy.
We kick off the album with “Feet Don’t Fail Me” and what an entrance this is. The introduction is dark and creepy until the instruments come in with a synth riff, followed by chant like vocals. Guitars start stabbing in with a fabulous build up to enter not only the song fully in but for the album in general. The song is groove thumping and you can’t keep still when listening to it, which is similar to what the song is about. You can totally picture Josh Homme shaking his hips simultaneously to the beat while singing/playing this live. This song could of been on the latest Iggy Pop album that Josh last worked on, but he decided to have it for himself on the Queens album instead. Great decision, Josh, it definitely captures Queens sound.
Josh Homme has stated the next song “The Way You Used To Do” to be about his wife Brody (best known for being in the punk rock band “The Distillers“) and how they first met when she was seventeen years old. The song is sounding very early Queens and after decades Homme hasn’t lost his “lazy” vocal tone and it still as prominent as it was at the beginning. He has a very distinctive voice which makes him stand out from any other singer. The song is a fast paced song which sits in the genre of “boogie-rock.” It’s swinging, and it gives a big old punch of “beef.” Strong song.
“Domesticated Animals” sounds like it should be on “Rated R” or even “Songs for the Deaf” as once again it reflects so many old school QOTSA vibes. The way Homme explains the lyrics in this song is definitely the most prominent, as the words just roll of his tongue which is definitely cheesy, but it works. The overdriven bass with the drums really makes the groove sound so masculine and hardcore. It’s fitted around the time signature of 7/8 which is obviously going to make it sound different to any other song on the album. Lyrically, it seems that Homme is signalling the/his individual mind and he’s trying to stand against the voice to prove who’s the “boss.” The orchestral section at the end of the song is really effective as it sounds like the song has “lost it’s battle…”
As the next song begins, we’re still hearing the orchestral instruments from the previous song. This is always effective and really draws the picture together of what “Fortress“ is going to sound like. The introductory violins makes this the album’s first ballad. The song is definitely more towards a soft rock genre, but as soon as we get this “synth-like” instrument in, it creates this kind of eerie, 80’s rock vibe. I personally think that Homme means that a “Fortress” is like a safe haven to him. It’s not the best song on the album technically and emotionally, but it’s still pretty strong. The weirdness of the synth really does make the song even better.
“Head Like a Haunted House” is very punk like and the instrumentation of the song could even be a “Bad Brains” song, but as soon as Homme’s voice enters with the boogie blues, it makes it sound like this is what Elvis Presley would of sounded like if he was still alive in a heavy rock band. It’s an uptempo song with a distinctive bass line and a funky chorus that will surely be an iconic QOTSA song in years to come. Sometimes it feels that this song has too much going on at points, but without that, the song would be bland.
You can definitely hear where Royal Blood get some of their influence from with this song. The way Josh sings in this is aggressive but so vulnerable. I’m always amazed by how much emotion he pours into his song. He bloody well means every word in “Un-Reborn Again.” Once again the overdriven bass in this song really gives it that “umph.” It has a big sound for such a vulnerable song. Lyrically the song suggest the use of drugs and wanting to live forever. Great song, but not musically the best song on the album.
“Hideaway” is seductive and warm. Scattered with synths, the song is slow and sexy. The lyrics seem to be about a romantic relationship between two things that should really be romantically involved, so they need a “hideaway.” Once again, this isn’t one of the strong QOTSA songs but it definitely fills out the sound to create a fun groove.
BADASS. Completely badass. This song is a song that needs to be on full volume. “Too loud” shouldn’t be in anyone’s vocabulary when this song is playing. “The Evil Has Landed” is overall tight. The drums, the bass, the riffs, everything about it makes the Queens sound. It’s definitely the iconic song on this album and even maybe in their full discography. If I saw them live again, I’d love to hear this. This is kind of the sound that I think would of been Led Zeppelin’s sound if they were more of band in this era. “Come Close” is seductive, sexy and sassy. I don’t say this often in my reviews, but I really think QOTSA have placed their songs in the track list very effectively, and this song is great because it’s coming towards the end of the album, but it’s still a big “stab” to show “we’ve not quite finished yet….”
“Villains of Circumstance” starts with a delicate bass line with soft vocals which is dark and very emotional. It really sets the mood of the song. I read in an interview that Homme wrote this song as a legacy for his children, and kind of like a light in the darkness to reflect that even in the hard times, there is always the good. It’s a love song and definitely a beautiful end to a great album. The chorus goes to a confident QOTSA sound as it’s catchy and memorable. It’s moody and twisted, and could of easily been put on “…Like Clockwork.”
Overall, great album from Queens of the Stone Age once again. What a band.
Score – 7.5/10
Favourite Tracks: Feet Don’t Fail Me, The Way You Used To Do, Domesticated Animals, The Evil Has Landed, Villains of Circumstance.