The third full-length album by the Queens Of The Stone Age, released August 27, 2002 in the USA (the day before most everywhere else). Surrounded by mountains of music-press hype prior to its release, and greeted with great enthusiasm by fans and critics alike. Update 28 August 2002: Now I have the genuine article in my hot little hand. Having already heard many of the songs both live and elsewhere, I knew we were in for a treat, but after about ten listens in two days I'm still utterly in love with this record.
Once again the principals are Josh Homme on guitar and Nick Oliveri on bass, with vocals on some songs by Mark Lanegan and additional guitar by Brendon McNichol (not Troy Van Leeuwen, though he appeared with them on tour). The big news, of course, is the appearance of Dave Grohl on drums, for the first time since his days with Nirvana and the early Foo Fighters records. In his interview on the bonus DVD included with early pressings, Josh says the record represents a road trip from Los Angeles to Joshua Tree, all the while twisting the radio dial, searching for new noises. So the concept tying the album together is not that of one station, as previously reported, but several – calculated to satirize the overall crumminess of American commercial radio. Favorites include: KLON, Clone Radio - "We play the songs that sound more like everyone else, than anyone else" and KRDL - "We spoil music for everybody!" The album even starts with the radio playing a fragment of the last song, for that extra Pink Floyd touch.
Predictably, the studio versions of these songs all sound more polished than their live counterparts, even including synthesizers, strings, bongo drums and God knows what else. The Queens also put one over on us and changed the track listing slightly from the one already leaked, as follows:
- You Think I Ain't Worth A Dollar, But I Feel Like A Millionaire: Called simply "Millionaire" on some other releases, such as the XXX soundtrack. Just a quick round of screaming, heavy power chords, and all-around ass-kicking, introduced by the first of several radio sound bites.
- No One Knows: The first single, and a pretty good choice, since it shows off the Queens' pop side, starting out with a bouncy swing-time riff and Josh's more subtle vocals, but soon giving way to heavier breaks. The video is pretty funny.
- First It Giveth: Here's a weird one. It has an almost calypso-like beat, but with punked-up guitars and strange, dark lyrics. I hated this song at first, but it just kept getting stuck in my head until it became irresistible.
- Song For The Dead: Still a great song, but I'm a little disappointed in the studio version, as compared with the titanic live performance. Some of the power of Dave's drums seems lost, but there are some weird new vocal parts, and that guitar/drum workout at the end will bash your goddamn head in.
- The Sky Is Fallin': This one, on the other hand, is much better on record. The guitars are more dominant than before, which helps transform the song from slow and boring to heavy and trancelike.
- Six Shooter: A 90-second non-song featuring more screaming by Oliveri: something like the Rated R song "Tension Head" crossed with "Big Man With A Gun."
- Hangin' Tree: More Mark Lanegan vocals, but this time over a richly textured 5/8 rhythm and a spacious lap steel melody. If you know about the Desert Sessions recordings, featuring members of QOTSA and a hundred other lunatics, it won't surprise you that this tune originated there.
- Go With The Flow: This seems like a straightforward, fast-ish rock song, but it has some awfully dark lyrics: I want something good to die for / To make it beautiful to live... Josh and Nick have said in interviews that this album would be darker than the previous two, and it sure seems that way. It ain't grunge, but the angst is laid on thick.
- Gonna Leave You: Something about this song makes me think of The Beatles, though I'm not sure just what. It certainly has some energetic power pop hooks, and a slight Lennon-McCartney sing-song silliness to it, but some of the guitar seems almost new wave influenced. As Josh Homme says, "You have to make up your own genres when you need them."
- Do It Again: This is sort of like the evil version of "No One Knows," with the same swing tempo and catchy chorus, but plenty of screaming and a nice big metal riff to go with it. This isn't pop metal in the same sense as Nickelback or Fuel or any of that nonsense; it's something else entirely, and it's fun to hear how far the Queens can push this particular envelope.
- God Is In The Radio: An ultra-loose, almost Kyussy jam tune which, thankfully, retains most of the controlled imprecision of the live version. If you haven't seen these guys in concert yet (what were you thinking?), this just a little taste for you. Josh is no guitar virtuoso, but he can play beautifully fluid solos when he wants to, and his tone is rich and sweet like cigar smoke. Everyone should have an Ovation Ultra GP.
- Another Love Song: Late-60s psychedelic Britpop, QOTSA style. It sounds like something I've heard a million times before, but in a good way (much like the best songs by Oasis).
- Song For The Deaf: This is where the shit is at, right here. Oh, yes. The song begins quietly enough, and then along comes one of Homme's patented bone-crushing riffs. And then they drop some Iron Maiden/Thin Lizzy two-guitar craziness on us; fortunately Oliveri and Grohl make a brutally tight rhythm section and can keep up just fine. Since the previous live cut, Lanegan's growl has been augmented with Homme's falsetto, but otherwise it's all there.
- Mosquito Song: The "hidden track" is really not hidden at all. I thought I heard a touch of The Beatles earlier, but you'd have to be on dope to miss their influence on this one. It's a trippy little acoustic number that gives way to something out of a Danny Elfman film score, complete with orchestra, grand piano, accordion and everything but the kitchen sink.
Addendum: It turns out that at least some UK/Europe versions also include two more bonus tracks: a Kinks cover tune called "Everybody's Gonna Be Happy" and a live recording of "The Lost Art Of Keeping A Secret." Thanks to CloudStrife for notifying me (an ignorant American) about this.
Oh, and try to catch the tiny snippet of an older QOTSA favorite. I won't tell you where it is...
Is this stoner rock? Not most of it, but it's heavy music in a new, inimitable vein. Is Josh Homme the next John Lennon or Brian Wilson, or are QOTSA the new Stooges? Frankly, I don't care. Is it going to be big? It is if there's any justice in this universe, but I'll be thrilled if something this original makes even a tiny dent in the mainstream, because that doesn't happen much anymore. Go out and buy it, damn you.
Produced by Josh Homme, Eric Valentine and Adam Kasper. Other performances by Gene Trautmann, Dean Ween, Alain Johannes, Natasha Shneider, Chris Goss, Anna Lenchantin, Paz Lenchantin, Brendon McNichol, Molly Maguire, John Gove, Kevin Porter, and Brad Kintscher. Radio DJs: C-Minus, Twiggy Ramirez, Dave Catching, Blag Dahlia, Casey Chaos, and Chris Goss.
Sources: amazon.com, articles and interviews at NME and KERRANG!, recordings at www.qotsa.net, and the indispensable stonerrock.com forums.