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

Single Review – Mini Mansions feat. Alex Turner – Vertigo

The L.A “Indie Pop” trio Mini Mansions including QOTSA bassist Michael Shuman are to release their upcoming second studio LP in The Great Pretender on March 23rd. Their single ‘Vertigo’ was released last week and is a well crafted and smooth track built around distant piano chords and a clean, indelible bass lines and beat. The string samples across the track add that sense of balance against the heavier and subtly fuzzy sounds that come about in the chorus. From this we get to Alex Turner’s contribution which is opposite to the light and slightly washed out vocals of the group. It adds a nice little traverse to the track but it’s difficult to get around how the vocals are a little out of step with the music in terms of tone and timing and whether done deliberately or not, it felt out of place and almost an afterthought. This is disappointing as the music and Turner’s vocals are as good as you’d expect but it’s almost like it’s been forced in without compromise. A little bit of catering for it wouldn’t have gone a miss, but on the whole it’s a well produced and intricate track.

Single Review – The Dead Weather – Buzzkill(er)

The Dead Weather have released two previously unheard tracks from their free downtime between the bands various commitments with the Kills, QOTSA and of course Jack White and his solo career. The tracks ‘Buzzkill(er)’ and ‘It’s Just Too Bad’ are being released as part of Third Man Records’ Vault Package Number 21 that has the track on a gold coloured seven inch. The first track features the dual riffs of the echoed and space creating outer riff and the more closely recorded and isolated grind of the nearer guitar, which also leads the main rhythm section and consequently most of the track’s instrumentals with only basic, yet sharp percussion behind it. Alison Mosshart and her strong, yet deliberately shaky vocal on the verses turn into shouts and bellows in the chorus. A low slung and neatly delivered track.

‘It’s Just Too Bad’ is a track that delivered in an even slicker, but also raw fashion with all the struggling guitars and feedback left and laid bare. This is in conjunction with a closer vocal from Alison, but one that has a less cleat focus upon it.