QOTSA – Villains Review

Behind all the leather and the well-gelled quiffs, there’s always been something quite funky about Queens of the Stone Age. From the staccato guitar flairs of No One Knows, to the collaborations with the likes of Elton John on …Like Clockwork, the band – often labelled simply as a definitive rock five-piece – are anything but predictable. The band’s 7th LP, Villains, is where they show this side of them most of all, with much of the tracks spiked with disco inferno undertones, only boosted by the employment of Uptown Funk’s very own Mark Ronson. Yet, this subtle new direction still remains to be classically QOTSA.Mark Ronson is the first person QOSTA have let loose in the studio, despite their history of collaborations. But this doesn’t mean the tracklist draws any kind of reminiscence to the cutesy soul chimes of Amy’s Valerie, or the pulsating pop of his arguably most famous number, Uptown Funk with Bruno Mars. Lead single The Way You Used To Do is carried on the shoulders of claps and a stop-start guitar riff – one that you could very much see Carlton Banks having a dance to. 

Head Like a Haunted House has the pace of Arctic Monkey’s á la Favourite Worst Nightmare and the distinctive, erratic croon of Josh Homme, with robotic synth decoration to finish. Even slower numbers, e.g. Hideaway, have something smooth and hip-swaying about them. The way bubbles of funk bleed seamlessly into the soft rock make for an album a little more accessible than some of their previous material, but similar enough to keep the existing fanbase happy. Each song is different too; the monosyllabic guitar backing of Domesticated Animals somewhat recalls No One Knows – a complete diversion from the spacey and drawn out album closer Villains of Circumstance. The way QOSTA have toyed with something different, but also stuck to what they know, is part of Villains compelling appeal.

Each track is sharp and perfected. The labyrinthine twists and turns that tracks like The Evil Has Landed embrace don’t disassociate too far from what the beginning of the songs establish, but make those surpassing the often-excessive five-minute mark (over half of the songs do) captivating. In fact, despite the different directions and tempos etc, etc, Villains never strays miles from what opening track Feet Don’t Fail Me lays down – it’s actually one of QOTSA’s more ‘together’ albums without really feeling repetitive. For a band that sometimes release albums seemingly for the sake of releasing albums, it’s nice to hear a solid and powerful musical statement from the quintet. Maybe Mark Ronson should just join the band.

Villains isn’t provocative, or hugely innovative, and doesn’t really have any glaringly amazing moments, but it’s fun, and well made, and makes for the most easy-listening “rock” record I’ve heard in a while. Queens of the Stone Age have slacked for a little while, but their newest release proves that their name should still be up there when it comes to decent timeless music.

Queens of the Stone Age – Villains: 6/10

Eleanor Chivers

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