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

Single Review – QOTSA – The Evil Has Landed

A lot has happened in the world since Queens Of The Stoneage released their last album ‘Like Clockwork’ around four years ago, but listening to new single ‘The Evil Has Landed’, the second from the band’s seventh studio album ‘Villains’ due August 25th, it’s almost too easy to believe hardly anything has changed at all. Falling back into the band’s trade mark creepy edged, sultry vocal, with underlying fuzzy percussion and epic, though familiarly paludal guitar lines, ‘The Evil Has Landed’ spirals within the band’s comfort zone. Becoming faster passed, reminiscent of racing montages everywhere, and ever so slightly clean-cut, perhaps from the input of Mark Ronson and Ranking’s production, as the single draws to its end. With a title like this one it would be understandably easy to assume the track had some connection to recent political events but, distancing his writing from the world we currently find ourselves in, ‘I fall beyond definitions now,’ Homme’s focus is purely on making yet another imposing single to add to QOTSA’s set list.  

Hayley Miller

EP Review – Foo Fighters – Saint Cecilia

The legends that are the Foo Fighters only go on to further their on-going perception as the nicest band around with their new free five track EP. St Cecilia is named after the hotel in Austin, Texas that they recorded these five tracks at and the Saint is the patron saint of musicians of course. The band also dedicated the EP to the victims of the Paris attacks, something which Dave Grohl’s friend Josh Homme was caught up in at the Bataclan theatre that night.

 

The EP in general is the band at their classic best with euphoric song progressions and heavyweight melodies and this is demonstrated best on the title track. The track swings from the rhythmic hooks of the chorus to the bulkier sections of the verses where the guitars are given a more free reign. Dave and Taylor Hawkins team up again for their trademark harmonies that run through the whole track to complete a optimistic piece of music. ‘Sean’ is a track echoing their earlier, rapid sound with an added kick behind it. ‘Savoir Breath’ is a keen play on words and is a track bordering on Heavy Metal which the band relishes in as we’ve seen in their documentary album Sonic Highways from last year. ‘Iron Rooster’ provides a change of pace in a more simple acoustic setting for a more considered and reflective track with Grohl’s vocals accompanied by a neatly places riffs and piano chords. ‘The Neverending Sigh’ is brilliant piece of unrestricted hard rock music with the riffs hitting peak after peak and the rhythm unrelenting in it’s pace.

 

For a free EP, Saint Cecilia is well worth getting your hands on as the Foo Fighters deliver some nuggets of their classic sound and indulge in a few variations too.

 

 

Owen Riddle @oriddleo1995

Arctic Monkeys – AM Review

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The time has almost come. My twitter feed a collage of love, hate, longing and frustration and even descriptions of what sexual acts this album is making people do. But for the good of humankind, I won’t scar you with such images. But I think even through the One Direction like delusion from some that has accompanied the build up to AM; there is a great sense of something really special. More so than their past efforts. I often cry for ‘INNOVATION’ on a regular basis and I can count on one hand how many have been truly innovative this year but the sad thing is that many of them don’t have the platform that Arctic Monkeys have. This is why I’ve been frustrated at their efforts to please Josh Homme by dipping in and out of his record collection when they could have really pushed the boundaries with true innovation to show that guitar music isn’t just going on in cycles. And for anyone who believes the NME then guitar music is dead and oh so nearly buried. Nevertheless they changed direction instead of fizzling out with the sound of their first two efforts and the last two efforts have allowed for great advances in the bands musicality, song structure, vocals and of course with the lyrics which are rarely a sideshow to the music and are full of quirks and rhymes that can still catch you off guard. With that in mind, AM is almost the culmination of the ‘Homme Era Monkeys’ upon which they’ve pushed it to it’s limits and beyond and given how they’ve developed since 2009, then this should be Arctic Monkeys having everyone grabbed by the collar and having their undivided attention once again. But will they believe the hype?

‘Do I Wanna Know?’ is what really started the hype full force. That stomp that lead the song into oh so simple yet maximum effect riff was in principle nothing new and has been the in thing from 2009-2012 with all the various artists plugging it. However they rewired it almost and just broke all those raging riffs from the last few years into something slower, louder and just more clear. They’ve rehashed into something so much more tuneful and at ease with itself than anyone else could’ve imagined. The Bass also eases itself into the song ever so slightly to take part into the very gradual build up of sound for the chorus as it’s endgame. Alex’s vocals too, mimic the instrumentals. Delivering each lyric with a pause to fit the words to what the instrumentals are doing for a perfectly symmetrical structure. The backing vocal is on an equal footing too for the bridge which keeps everything immediate and in your face as you’re hit by the greater depth of the chorus while it still refrains from getting carried away and it flows between verse, bridge and chorus seamlessly as a result. What makes this song is what they don’t do. For it speaks so much more than cramming it full of riffs, raging percussion etc. ‘Why’d You Only Call Me When You’re High?’ strikes you straight away. No gimmicks (for as much as I like them). The bass line is deep and fluctuates so smoothly and creates an indelible groove and allows for everything else to just trickle off it like the little licks and riffs giving the song a little bit of texture as it quietly fills the space. The vocals at first follow the pattern of the music until they are woven around it all at the end of each verse. The backing vocals too, are placed in more than one place and bounce off each other well while Matt fills up the space so thinly with the tingling of the cymbals towards the end. The lyrics too are a little more direct and tastefully seductive and this is probably why it was their best charting single since 2007 as it had that wider appeal.

‘R U Mine’ has Alex Turner at his witty and quick shifting best both lyrically and vocally and that’s what sets it apart from the desert rock of others like the Black Key’s to the other extreme of QOTSA. That and it’s sheer cockiness and bold thinking in how it’s performed. But compared to the two more recent singles, it isn’t as creative which makes quite a lot of sense when you consider the track was released over a year before ‘Do I Wanna Know?’. ‘No. 1 Party Anthem’ is the sort of swooning ballad that wouldn’t be out of place playing over the credits of a 1970’s Bond film with Roger Moore on a yacht or something. It’s the ‘Oh Darling’ type piano that makes it so; with the acoustic elements and the steady drum beat. The typical contributions from the lead guitar are no different and it seems like this song is a bit of pure pop ballad indulgence from them which does give a much needed shift in tone even if it is very retro. The lyrics are no doubt the focus here. ‘Arabella’ starts off with a very prominent bass line again from Nick with the stepped, rapidly plucked riffs trickling from it which gives Turners vocal a simple foundation. It soon rips out of it’s cool, calm shell which for some will be for some much needed raging guitar riffs and then pauses while Alex’s vocals switch from it’s standard sound to a more isolated style and back again and at times are echoed out. There’s also moments for some Kevin Parker like guitar solo’s at the end too and the song picks up it’s pace well and they show great control to flick on and off the raging instrumentals. Soulful and straight up rocking clashes with ‘Want It All’ while ‘Mad Sounds’ carries on the contemplative and steady ballads. ‘I Wanna Be Yours’ takes the album to it’s last dark corner with simple progression from the vocals throughout.

AM falls down on very few occasions and when it does, it’s only to re-envisage some great Desert Rock, Swooning Ballads etc. The rest of it has been new takes on worn out sounds, showing that you can be innovative in what you don’t bring to a song and with at times fluctuating styles within songs. I also think that Josh Homme’s presence has for once not been an overbearing one but something that has furthered their vision and aim here. Even if you tried your hardest to knock it, the album is at least an 8/10 but when you consider it against most other mainstream rock bands then you’d be knocking them for what is mostly those bands better types of songs and if that’s all you can aim an attack at then the album is even better than those and it’s almost a relief that this sort of music will get radio time as well; to show everyone what still can be done with guitar music in 2013. I know it can be easy, but don’t let all the crazed fangirls and boys put you off it because it’s an album that maintains a very high standard throughout and will give me a headache when I decide what the greatest albums of 2013 are. I’m really putting myself out on a limb with the early score I am giving it too; which shows the faith I have in it.

Arctic Monkeys – AM = 9/10

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