Queens of the Stone Age-
'My God Is The Sun'
Legendary desert, stoner rock gods, end a 6-year creative hiatus. Safe to say it is very much 'business as usual'.
Availability: 'My God Is The Sun' is available via https://itunes.apple.com/gb/artist/queens-of-the-stone-age/id857919
I will aim for a well-measured objectiveness...
here; being as they are, my favourite band. That honour used to belong to Radiohead, but too many electronic diversions; too few guitar numbers, and not enough of Thom Yorke's undiluted, unprocessed golden voice, left my frustrated. My attention span was at its peak around track 9 of 'Hail to the Thief'- the glorious career high of 'There There'. The remainder of that album was a mixture of sub-par wandering, and facile effects and bluster. The guys performed an about-face on the successor, 'In Rainbows'. That was an album, filled with fascinating and intoxicating guitar songs- classic Radiohead. The baffling need to change the formula, and replicate the 3 worst songs from 'Kid A' 3 times for their next release, lost my vote, and love of the band. Whether they will have the sense to bring the quality back, or simply be ghosts in their own broken machine, remains to be seen. Either way, they have been pushed into the Champions League spots. Formed in California, back in a time when Blur and Oasis were still at each other's throats, and the charts were a mixture of the sublime- The Bluetones, Bjork, Rage Against The Machine, to the god-awful- Gina G, Gary Barlow, Peter Andre etc.; something magical was happening. 1996 was a superb year for music, all in all, with a staggering turnover of stunning hits from classic bands. Formed from the embers of defunct stoner rock pioneers Kyuss, Queens of the Stone Age, helmed by Corporal Josh Homme; the album was a mixture of phenomenal, fascinating rock slices (Regular John; Mexicola), to the brilliantly-titled and brilliantly compulsive (Give the Mule What He Wants; I Was a Teenage Hand Model), the album fared well, and, in an era of Britpop and Grunge stayer-ons. It was "robot rock", that Homme created with former Kyuss drummer, Alfredo Hernandez. With a bolstered and changed line-up the only constant was Homme, who preceded over the glorious Rated R. With his long-term friend Nick Oliveri, the album was a incredibly tight, sometimes songs ran into one another. It was a more thrilling and faster ride than previous and with a stunning 1-2 of 'Feel Good Hit of the Summer', and 'The Lost Art of Keeping a Secret', Rolling Stone crowned it as the '82nd best album of the decade' (1990s), and it is the most critically-acclaimed album of their career. Perhaps not the fan favourite; it is still underrated, and is certainly my favourite album of theirs. With the mix of drug-induced whimsy, good humour and bitch-slapping Alpha Male strut, it is a masterpiece. There are short and catchy gems (Leg of Lamb; Auto Pilot); unhinged, headcase scream fests (Quick and to the Pointless, Tension Head), and the mesmeric and unpredictable monster of 'Better Living Through Chemistry'. My favourite song was the disco metal crawler of 'Monster in the Parasol'. If it weren't for the misjudged, sonorous dirge of 'In The Fade', with its baffling initial recall of 'Feel Good' it would have been flawless. Any album that can end with a cacophony of brass and horns insanity ('I Think I Lost My Headache'), and have you drooling like a moron, is quite a feat. The fan favourite and- in my mind 3rd best Queens' release- Songs for the Deaf, arrived. The lads have lost none of their genius for unique and memorable album and song titles; throw in a line up that now included the modern-day John Bonham, Dave Grohl, it was a stunner. Obvious wonders like 'No One Knows' and 'Go With The Flow', dripped with sex and tension; the album itself, was a jokey concept, with sounds of radios being tuned, rapid-fire Spanish radio hosts babbling and jocular, smarmy U.S. radio hosts, announcing the prophetic songs. It was labelled as a epoch-defining collection by NME and Uncut, and with lumbering beats ('The Sky Is Fallin') and stoned stunners ('God Is in the Radio') it kept the pace high. To my mind, there was too much Lanegan, and too many fillers (about 4 in all); there were the statuesque stand-outs, but also wonderful avenues. After Oliveri was fired from the band, on the back of stories of domestic abuse, there was a fractious and uneasy air that preceded 'Lullabies to Paralyze'. With a crepuscular sound and druid-cum-night crow might and fright to it, to my mind it was superior to 'Songs'. Losing Oliveri was a shock, but sharp, short shocks ('Medication'), nestling with catchy crowd-pleasers ('In My Head'; 'Everybody Knows That You're Insane'), it was dizzying array. It clocked in at just under an hour, and was a record stuffed with short blasts and crawling animals. Aside from the horrid 'Little Sister', impotent 'You Got a Killer Scene There, Man...' and hard-to-adore 'Skin on Skin', the remaining 11 tracks were glorious. Some were intro riff-heavy ('The Blood Is Love'), whilst some were consistently engaging ('Tangled Up in Plaid'; 'Burn The Witch'). Homme has always been the genius of the group and proved his muscle and songwriting prowess. The album fared less well than the previous two albums, but Allmusic hit the nail on the head when they highlighted the album's "serious sexiness" and a "late-night cinematic masterpiece". It married the artiness of 'Rated R', with the tough as shit smack of 'Songs for the Deaf'. Hopes were high; and then 'Era Vulgaris' came along. This is going to be a court case of a summation, so will start with the offensive. There was a certain spark missing, somewhere. Perhaps fatigue had set in, or there was a lack of ideas, but the whiny 'Into the Hollow', predictably drab and horrid Lanegan-featured song 'River in the Road', and sub-par migraine 'Run, Pig, Run' lived up the negative hype. Out of the 11 tracks there are about 5 that really grab you. A lack of memorable hooks, coupled with unusually listless lyrics from Homme, resulted in a bit of a mess. It is somewhat top-heavy, with perhaps the finest numbers in the first half. That is all I could fault about the album. Although it should have been track 1, 'Sick, Sick, Sick' is a scuzzy, muscular, filthy fighter. The bouncy riff is infectious; the drumming is ferocious and pulsating, whilst Homme and Van Leeuwen were at the front, leading the riot. The vocals were raw and passionate, which was shown in 'Misfit Love'. It has a ducking, weaving and robot-rock pulse, and sharp and hard-tongued lyrics. Unimaginative and pointless video aside, 'Make It wit Chu' is a sexy, sensual and sun-drenched dessert road driver. 'Suture Up Your Future' is an underrated gem; stunning chorus, evocative lyrics and tight performances. For any other band, this album would be seen as a sterling- although albeit inconsistent- fare. With a curious and endeavouring 'Them Crooked Vultures' album keeping appetites whetted, and showing that Homme had a talent beyond Queens', there was an agonising, upsetting and tantilising silence... until now.
It is important to get a lot of back-story to this track, in order to initiate new followers or old fans, alike. For those that are milk toast music lovers, in adoration of a calmer song, QOTSA have been pioneering and mastering those types of track, throughout every album. Perhaps 'Era Vulgaris' insistence to lean heavily on these scared some hardcore fans away, but for those seeking a return to the 'Songs for the Deaf' hard and experimental manliness; 'Lullabie to Paralyze's dark, pagan undertones, and 'Rated R's knack of burrowing into your skull, sighs of relief and smiles of disbelief will be unleashed. With Grohl back on sticks duty, his presence shines through. It is the opening introductory riff that strikes first. There is a bit of Blue Oyster Cult, but at its heart it is classic 'Rated/Songs' Queens'. The guitar loads the barrels and delineates staunchly, in the same manner that solo artist-cum-'Icky Thump' Jack White, White Stripes does. There are no scary detours and slow-burning; it is straight to the bone axe-wielding. The guitar employs a musical Doppler Effect, being heard loud and clear; going off into the distance, before circulating its arpeggio. It is a exhilarating and for newer but no less hardcore fans, it is a mixture 'Lullabies' riffage ('The Blood Is Love'; Burn The Witch'), complete with the same stunning, yet slightly slower conglomeration of 'Go With The Flow' and 'No One Knows'. With Grohl completing a quadruple syncopated punch after each guitar passage, it is a beautiful courtship with an immense pedigree. The pace picks up, as cymbals enter the fray, as that guitar line keeps pulsating forward. There is a brief alternation and injection of harder, darker guitar, before it blends into the mix, before the tempo and riot calms slightly (sounding curiously like a 'Nevermind' cut). Homme's vocal is a waltz of recollection and ambivalence as it is said that "far beyond the desert road" it is good to be in an open space and to "erase the given". The chorus has a similar signature and pace, but the words are more punctuated and forceful so the words: "Healing, like fire from above/Kneeling, my god is the sun", really hit home. There is a mixture of Californian open road bliss and occult worshiping. Homme intones like a minister, presiding over his congregation, wielding a baptism of fire; bass in the middle of the axis, keeping things together, as Grohl drives the blood through the veins. Before the next verse there is a break/coda, as guitar threads weave and pioneer; then a quiet gap with a feint hint of percussive smoke, before a fiery blast of guitar storms in. The next verse is the most fascinating and noteworthy; Homme plainly stating that he didn't know time it was, as "I don't wear a watch". Whether Josh is the human being, one of 7 billion, comfortable to go with the flow and chill; or seeing himself as a comestible insect being tossed through the sky, the lines: "So good to be an ant who crawls/Atop a spinning rock" make you picture, theorise and wonder. One suspects that it is the former: he is moving with the beat, and has no time for stress, driving as he is down a highway, in awe of the heat, making Helios and Shepesh, look down jealously. There is a hint of their debut and 'Hangin' Tree' when the scratchy and cosmic guitar struts and reflections and followed by ghostly and vampish vocal coos and a flailing, rictus of drums and cymbal. The chorus follows; repeats and hits hard, as the electric atmosphere continues unabated; Homme slips into a falsetto howl and cry towards the end, singing with an air of deranged beauty and creepy whisper. There is a little gap- an effective trick employed in the 'Rated/Songs' era during a number of songs- where you may think that gravity has beaten you, and the tension and storm is over. Then the intro riff comes back, as Homme enunciates a 'No One Loves Me & Neither Do I'-esque grunt; the riot kicks back up, and then... it ends. We are- it is safe to assume- overwhelmed by the end?
Before I sign off with a paragraph or so on the new album, it is worth noting that this track is a complete return to form. I have always felt that Queens of the Stone Age have had the quality. And even in the middle ground and bogs during 'Era Vulgaris', they never forgot how to inflame the sense. There is a chorus-verse-chorus structure that is deployed effectively. The messages are fascinating and entrancing, whilst the chorus is memorable and reminiscent. The song is a glorious blend of 'The Blood Is Love' and 'Everybody Knows That You're Insane'. It has a similar sound to both songs: the former during the verses; the latter during the chorus. It is a track that could fit into the sister album, 'Lullabies to Paralsyze'. It has that smell, sense and savagery. There is the concise, tightened instrumentation of 'Rated R', mingling with the sprawling lasciviousness of their 'Era's' finest moments. There is the fan-pleasing strike rate of Songs for the Deaf, and, with Grohl back where he should be; Queens' are a galvanized, insurmountable tower. Chuck in some flavour notes of their debut, as well as 'Them Crooked Vultures' flecks and sparks, a neat magic trick has been performed: they have taken bits from each album, managed to keep the quality so high it will appeal to fair-weather fans and the hardcore alike; as well as having a bold and exciting originality and strength. It will drag back any misguided fans who wandered from the good path; spitting on about how the boys had committed a musical sin of omission. It will keep the loyal fans happy and drooling with anticipation, and can also pull a lot of new fans and bands in; who perhaps had not heard much of their stuff (which in itself, is deplorable). QOTSA are the greatest band in the world for a reason, and they do this, with no real peers to challenge them. It has been a huge, and exhausting wait, but if it is time that was needed to get the quality and spark back, then who cares? The lads are not repeating or trying to recapitulate and reinvent their past; simply keep their sound solid, and go into new and fresh directions. The track did what any phenomenal song should: it inspired me to write. Written 2 verses inspired by 'My God Is The Sun'- which I won't bore you with. It will be track number 5, when the album is released. It sits in the middle of the album, which is curious. Historically QOTSA usually releases as their first single, a song within the first third of the album. 'Sick, Sick, Sick' was track 2 on 'Era Vulgaris' and it is quite bracing. The fact that this song is in the middle of the album, yet has the authority, huge quality and memorable aftertaste, to make eyes water. If track 5 is this good, what the hell will the first 4 tracks sound like?! That said, it could be a commercial move. If the remainder of the album is a cross of mind-bending experimentation and far-out nerve-shredding, releasing a song that has more in past with their previous singles, might be a wise and studied move. Who knows for sure, of course? I suspect both scenarios are true; which would mean that the forthcoming album has the promise to be their best yet. Worth waiting 6 years, after all, eh?!
As has been documented through fan sites, word of mouth, and in hysterical tones in the likes on NME; it has been a... lengthy wait for a new record. There was rumblings and rumour a few months back that the new album was going to be called 'Ultraviolet Robot'. That would have been kick-ass, and as they're not using it, I'm totally stealing it for a future E.P.! Disgraced former comrade Oliveri is back in the fold, which means more scintillating and life-affirming screams. Grohl is back. It is axiomatic to say that he is the best drummer in the world, today, and he will bring his usual blend of monstrous talent, and primal power to the fold. Apparently Trent Reznor is making an appearance. Lanegan is back, one suspects lacking in conversation; wanders into the studio, records his vocals, and departs without a word, screeching off into the suburban and sunny shine of a Burbank day. Elton John and Jake Shears are involved, perhaps lending vocals to an enthralling and charged disco-soul-pop beast; whether together or individually; taken lead vocals or doing backing, is yet to be revealed. Alex Turner is on board; one hopes lending guitar as well as vocal. There is some hesitant voices that say it could be a case of throwing everything into the mix to get results, or throwing a certain excremental substance against a wall, to see what sticks. From a band who have produced 5 albums with little abstract experimentation or huge collaborative spirit, it is just an evolutionary step. I shall post the track list, and release date, below; but as you can see, there are some bloody exciting and odd titles. I have in my head, assigned the various collaborators, to the various songs. 'I Appear Missing', HAS to be a song featuring Lanegan?! The band need not my honey-words or apoplectic lust to see them shift units, delight and unite the fans, and show the rest of the scene, how the hell and album should be done. Although with a huge number of reviews about this track, and so little depth or back-story, I felt compelled by the niche. Listen to this gorgeous explosion here, and lick your lips in anticipation, as the album is just over 3 weeks away, and I for one, will be doing it the old-fashioned way. Waiting outside of H.M.V. at 9am the day it is due to go on sale; smashing a defenseless 13-year-old out of the way, skipping to the till like a moron, and playing the bad boy all the way home. For the purposes of that day I will be living in Scotland. The boys are back in town, and holy crap...
... they are as fresh, astonishing and brilliant as they were in 1998.
is listing June 4th as the release date for '…Like Clockwork' (as well as a pre-order link), with the following track list and info:
1. Keep Your Eyes Peeled
2. I Sat By The Ocean
3. The Vampyre of Time and Memory
4. If I Had A Tail
5. My God Is The Sun
7. Fairweather Friends
8. Smooth Sailing
9. I Appear Missing
10. …Like Clockwork
'…. Like Clockwork' was produced by Joshua Homme and QOTSA, recorded by Mark Rankin with additional engineering by Justin Smith, at Josh’s studio, Pink Duck, in Burbank, California.