Queens of the Stone Age : Villains

I’m not the biggest QOTSA fan in the room. There are others that their love and admiration for Josh Homme and crew far outweigh my own. I really didn’t come around to them till Lullabies To Paralyze. Even the massive Songs for the Deaf wasn’t enough to peak my interest in the desert rock monoliths. Though, since the mid-2000s I’ve grown to admire Josh Homme, from both his albums and interviews. He comes off much more down to earth and goofy than his stoned desert rat image would reveal. And I’ve also come to really be impressed with the guy’s guitar moves. He’s a unique player with a unique sound. I think years of hanging out with the likes of Alain Johannes, Billy Gibbons, and Chris Goss have worn off on his own style. Queens’ last record, …Like Clockwork sounded like a “come to Jesus” moment for Homme. Not that it was his reborn Christian album, but that after a huge health scare and too many years ingesting chemicals of varied components the guy realized he wasn’t some desert rock God. He was just a mere mortal like you and me and it was time to reel it all in or burn out much too early. That album was dark, sobering, and a slate cleaner in terms of music.

Where do you go once you’ve bared your soul and went to war with your own mortality on an album? You go to Mark Ronson, that’s where. Queens of the Stone Age have returned after four years of side projects, shows, and woodshedding with Villains, a Mark Ronson-produced album. The results are both what you’d expect and also not what you’d expect. That’s neither good nor bad. It just is.

Nobody gets the scuzzy boogie going like Queens of the Stone Age. It seems to be in their DNA. Maybe something they acquired near Joshua Tree amidst the burning sun and fuzzy headspace. They’ve patented their own groove and only they know how to control the machine. Opening track “Feet Don’t Fail Me” ominously opens like a Pandora’s Box and breaks into some patented Queens scuzz rock. We’re nearly in robot disco territory here, and Josh Homme sounds man enough to own it. Next up is the greasy boogie of “The Way You Used To Do”. This is like some bizarre party song from some other dimension where tattoos, leather, and fuzzy bass are requirements. Homme has never hidden his love of Billy Gibbons’ guitar pyrotechnics and here he lets that love show proudly. It’s a hell of a track, really. “Head Like A Haunted House” sounds like the Queens on a Germs bender. Pure adrenaline and all the weird stuff we’ve come to expect and love from QOTSA. “Un-Reborn Again” touts wonky synths and a Georgia Satellites lyric drop. Part glam and part middle finger(with a painted fingernail, of course.) Last track “Villains of Circumstance” is also a great track. It pulls in some of that drama and desolation that made …Like Clockwork so present and engaged.

Here’s the thing, there’s just too many moments of dead air. Either Mark Ronson wasn’t used enough or too much. All the danger and friction that made past records resonate seems to be muted down. The greasy guitar tones and junkyard drums and overdriven bass sound just seem contrived here. Ronson makes good on his reputation in certain aspects. Josh Homme sounds as good as he’s ever sounded, and when tracks swing they really swing. But the consistency of greatness just isn’t here like you think it should be.

Villains is a step out of the Queens’ comfort zone. They seem to have wanted to make a fun, accessible rock album and for the most part I think they have. It doesn’t bite as hard as it used to, but the bark is still there.

P.S., I miss Mark Lanegan.

7.2 out of 10

32 thoughts on “Queens of the Stone Age : Villains

  1. So far I have avoided this one.
    I figured the collaboration with Ronson was a tired ploy to get the younger folk interested in the band.
    I am also tired of seeing the band and/or Homme every day in my news feed. Every day. Enough already.
    I may wait and see before I buy, or I may not get it at all. Maybe I can snag a used copy, or wait until the record stores discount them.
    What I have heard so far was underwhelming, so who knows.
    I miss Lanegan too.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think anyone going into this record with Josh Homme burnout will not find the record to be a pleasing experience. Maybe give this one a wait. Check it out in a couple months. Might sound better to your ears. Or not.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. It’s funny. I (unlike a lot of people) enjoyed the last Eagles of Death Metal album. Josh did not bug me then.
        I just find that the last 2 months have have been all Josh, all the time.
        Also, what he has been saying was making me more and more annoyed.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. There’s definitely been a Homme media blitz as of late. EODM. I haven’t caught on to them. Catchy stuff, but nothing has really enticed me to dig deeper.


  2. Miss Lanegan, but mostly I miss Nick.

    “Here’s the thing, there’s just too many moments of dead air. Either Mark Ronson wasn’t used enough or too much.”

    Personally I don’t think Ronson is the producer for a heavy rock band. But on the other hand Queens wanted to go for a more dance vibe which Ronson can do with ease. I’m not sure it works for me personally. Undecided.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think the best thing Homme ever did was fire Oliveri. The guy was unhinged, and up till at least 2011 still was unhinged(standoffs with cops, cocaine and loaded rifles, battery.) He added that bit of craziness those first three records benefited from, but crazy only goes so far.

      Ronson certainly isn’t known for heavy rock, for sure. But I think he’s capable of producing anything. He’s like a walking encyclopedia of music. He knows musical reference points and knows the studio. I’m just not sure if he was given enough freedom to direct here. Or he was given too much freedom. Hell, maybe this should’ve been a Homme solo record.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Ah I didn’t know that unhinged stuff. As Rick James might say, “Cocaine’s a hell of a drug.”

        I think a mutual friend of ours named “J” has talked me into trying out this album.

        Liked by 2 people

      2. Yes I do though I have a very nice collection of vintage with only big ticket items missing. The new ones are fabulous. I’m heading to Toronto next weekend to pick up one we pre-ordered 6 months ago. $340 US…for half a Transformer. The next part comes out in late 2017. If you know Omega Supreme you know which character I am talking about.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Perhaps a case of both Ronson and Homme having too much respect for each other? though I personally don’t have any complaints about the production. And yeah, Ronson is a music man… his work on Any Winehouse’s Back To Black proves he knows what he’s doing.

        As for Oliveri, he done a fine job on those two albums, but I honestly don’t think he’s missed. That revolving door line-up has evolved into quite the band.

        Liked by 1 person

      4. Have you ever listened to the One Day As A Lion EP with Theodore and Zach De La Rocha from RATM? That thing is great. All synth, drum, and Rocha. Just killer stuff. Really sad they never did anything else.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. One of the more positive opinions on this one, JH. As you know, I’m a bit of a fan of Homme & Co. and I’m really digging this a fair bit. Production wise it’s dry and tight, which, as far as I can tell, is exactly what they were going for. Essentially, though, the songs are just ace… loads of boogie and glam in there. I can appreciate the grumbles, though… but this is easily one of their must enjoyable records.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. You nailed my (admittedly limited) knowledge of the band’s work… “The results are both what you’d expect and also not what you’d expect. That’s neither good nor bad. It just is.” They’ll click for me one day. Probably.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I am so glad that you did this post write up on ‘Queens of the Stone age’.

    ‘I once favored a Queens of Stone Age cover done of Tom Waits ‘Going Out West’ It was really cool not as cool as Toms’ Official GOW video, but it was cooler than cool. Anyways I think Tom had the Cover Yanked for Copy Write reasons, but boy would I love to have that video and song cover, or at least watch and hear it again. It was done really well. But I sure can see Toms ‘Reason for pulling it.’

    Liked by 1 person

  6. You won’t be able to help me, at this point I don’t think that any one can… Lol.

    ‘Upon Going Out West’ ‘Itz’ Tiny Creatures’ that Does a great cover, but the one I am looking for was a chic in tight black leather at the mic, and she was screaming it out…

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I’m not a fan at all and I couldn’t agree more about Mark Lanegan. He was the sole redeeming feature when I saw them play a shit show on the ‘Songs for the Deaf’ tour.

    Liked by 1 person

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