June 2003. As I was carried above the heads and outstretched hands of an ecstatic Brixton Academy audience, (hoping no-one would a) grab me in a delicate place b) drop me or c) pick my pocket) crowd-surfing for the first (and last) time in a defiant protest against being thirty three years old, I realised that a) I wasn’t quite too old for this just yet, and b) Rock n roll didn’t get any better than the Queens of the Stone Age.
Some ten years after my personal epiphany, the release of a new Queens of the Stone Age album is still celebrated like a Canaan wedding in the Every Record house. Carpets are swept. Bunting is hung. Sloes are Gin’d and telegrams sent far and wide. Even a Desert Sessions LP gets a toast. Homme, as the saying goes, Can Do No Wrong.
All of which left me feeling somewhat red-faced when last QOTSA album, Era Vulgaris, didn’t quite have the charm of its predecessors. Had Homme finally run out of ideas? I wondered. Happily, any doubts I had about Josh Homme’s abilities were swiftly dashed when I listened to the Dave Grohl / John Paul Jones / Joshua Homme project called “Them Crooked Vultures“, a stunning band with an equally fine record, and I looked forward to QOTSA’s new release like a cat staring at a hobbling canary.
A friend of mine has yet to pick up a QOTSA album, having mentally filed them as “one of those Limp Bizkit bands” that surfaced at a similar time. Error. As we keep telling him. For his benefit, here’s a brief history lesson:
- 1989: Chris Goss releases classic debut “Masters of Reality” album. Stoner (or Desert) Rock has an instant Godfather, and blueprint of a changing line up revolving around one man. Sells about eight hundred copies*, but is a Top 5 Kerrang! 1989 Album of the year.
- 1992: Chris Goss approached by teenagers Josh Homme and Nick Oliveri to produce their latest Kyuss album “Blues For The Red Sun”. It reaches #3 in Kerrang! Magazine‘s 1992 albums of the year behind Alice In Chains and The Black Crowes. Sells about eight hundred copies.*
- 1995: Kyuss disband. Homme joins The Screaming Trees as rhythm guitarist on tour where his friendship with Mark Laneghan is formed.
- 1997: Homme records first Desert Sessions LP in Palm Desert. Later collaborators include PJ Harvey, Mark Laneghan, and Chris Goss. It sells about eight copies.*
- 1998: Josh and Nick form Queens of the Stone Age. Debut album is an astonishing slab of stoner riffage. Sells about eight hundred copies*.
- 2000: Rated R spawns #31 UK hit “Lost Art Of Keeping A Secret“. “Feel Good Hit of the Summer” is an instant classic tune of gargantuan proportions. Goes silver in the UK.
- 2001: Josh Homme and Nick Oliveri play on Masters Of Reality’s new album Deep In The Hole (which sells about 800 copies), and then go on tour as members of Masters of Reality, supporting Mark Laneghan. I nearly explode with excitement. No one else even notices.
- 2002: Third album “Songs For The Deaf” features QOTSA’s best song to date “No One Knows”. Gravel-throated songbird Mark Laneghan joins the band on record and tour. Homme appears on NME’s Cool List. Songs For The Deaf goes platinum in the UK.
- 2004: Nick Oliveri departs.
- 2005: Lullabies To Paralyse released. Billy Gibbons and Chris Goss guest.
- 2007: Era Vulgaris released.
- 2009: Homme teams up with Led Zep’s John Paul Jones and Foo Fighter Dave Grohl (drums) to form Them Crooked Vultures. Against all “supergroup” based odds, the album is brilliant.
- 2013: Elton John and Jake Shears from Scissor Sisters join QOTSA and release …Like Clockwork.
Sorry, say that again? Elton? Shears? Are we going to see Homme play “I Don’t Feel Like Dancin’”? Homme has taken a template begun by Goss and has surrounded himself with a core of people, and then invited other musicians to help with certain records. Heck, Goss had well-known-curmudgeon-and-drumming-genius Ginger Baker on one record. Homme has attracted Grohl (and Oliveri) back for this one, as well as Elton, Shears, The Dead Weather’s Dean Fertita, Arctic Monkey Alex Turner and regular contributor Mark Laneghan.
I was going to add a “listener’s guide” to Queens of the Stone Age here, but The Guardian recently polled their readers and did a good job for me – here’s the link to an excellent article, and here’s the Spotify playlist:
So what about the new album?
Having lived with it for a couple of weeks, I am happy to say it is a belter. The band have moved forward, leaving behind the rather claustrophobic Era Vulgaris behind. When QOTSA released Songs For The Deaf I felt immediately that the band had released the best record they would ever do. It was an obvious peak, I felt, that they would struggle to equal quality-wise. Follow up Lullabies to Paralyse had a good try, but after Era Vulgaris I feared I was right.
Happily, a mere eleven years later, ...Like Clockwork not only matches Songs For The Deaf for quality, but it also is a very different record and doesn’t seek to merely cover old ground. It is slower paced and more reflective, in a good way. Homme hasn’t sought to replicate the past, but has built on it, taking the best bits from the Vultures and Queens and making something new. If you can’t wait to hear it, ...Like Clockwork is streaming at iTunes prior to release on the 3rd July.
Meanwhile, Vinyl QOTSA fans have some choices: the standard record, a deluxe 180g version with booklet, and the standard record in an alternative blue (rather than red) sleeve. Happy days…
Record #196: Queens Of The Stone Age – My God Is The Sun
*For legal reasons I should point out that all these albums did slightly better than I suggest. But not that much.
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