QUEENS OF THE STONE AGE Villains gets 9/10

Queens Of The Stone Age
Villains
Matador/Remote Control

9/10

The controversy surrounding Queens of the Stone Age’s new album Villains has been a fascinating one to watch and it’s all because of one name – Mark Ronson. It’s divided fans right down the middle and has them arguing about it in Facebook groups before most people have had the chance to even listen to the album.

Feet Don’t Fail Me Now is the first track and starts off slow but heavy before breaking out into what can only be described as a QOTSA beat/riff which is theirs and theirs alone. It gets you rocking in your chair before the need to get up and dance invades your mind and body.

The Way You Used To Do was the first released song from the album and wouldn’t be out of place in a 1950s film with the greasers and their gals being flung around a dance floor swinging and jiving. It’s this album’s Leg of Lamb, where they have thrown all caution to the wind and recorded a song that makes them (and those that choose to let it make them) happy.

Domesticated Animals is one of the heavier tracks, an intelligent, and definitely darker song, with lyrics like “pretty pets; once were wild; domesticated, love slave”, “shrunken heads parade through town”. It feels like a statement on the craziness of our lives and how we are destined to keep going around in circles unless we create our own revolution. But that is the beauty of QOTSA songs. They are ever so slightly ambiguous so that you can take what you need from them.

One of the most beautiful moments on Villains is a song that Homme wrote for his daughter: Fortress is a goosebump inducing song as he tells his daughter that things won’t always be ok but that he will always be there to help pick her up. It’s hard to listen to the song without having at least the hint of a tear in your eye.

The track that really makes you want to get up and dance like no one is watching is Head Like A Haunted House. It’s almost impossible to sit still while listening to it and this will be an even greater song live.

What makes us love Queens of the Stone Age so much is their ability to not re-create the same album over and over and yet still remain faithfully QOTSA. As Homme himself has said many times in recent weeks, he wants QOTSA to be an escape from reality, and frankly, for this scribe, this album has provided just that. And for someone who’s gone through dark times herself in the past and uses music as an escape, this album was just what the doctor ordered.

Case in point, Un-Reborn Again was recorded almost completely live and is the longest track. It’s dynamic, alive and it’s almost impossible to describe the way the track makes you feel. It’s the complete opposite of previous album Like Clockwork and is full of hope and promise.

Homme’s vocals on Hideaway are dreamy and sublime and full of warmth. It makes you want to close your eyes and float away to another place and bask in the beauty of the song as it weaves a spell around you. Latest single The Evil Has Landed is one of those songs that works just as well live as it does on CD. It helps, too, that QOTSA have a way of capturing their feelings and their energy on record.

Closer Villains of Circumstance has been available via YouTube as an acoustic solo song for a couple of years so many people will be keen to hear what they have done with it for the album. It is so overflowing with emotion and love that Homme has for his wife that it will make many a girl swoon and wish that they had a song like that written (and let’s face it… sung) for them by the man himself. It’s the perfect finish to the album and by the time you get through all nine songs, your mood is lifted and you feel ready to tackle the world head on.

Controversy aside, Villains is one of QOTSA’s best albums to date and welcome shift from the doldrums of Like Clockwork. It was also the album that had to happen. Josh Homme has stated that he wanted this album to sound muted; with the air sucked out of it – as if you were looking through goggles at Songs For The Deaf under water. After a near death experience, Like Clockwork was about him hitting rock bottom. With that in mind, Villains can be interpreted as Homme working his way out of that dark place and finally swimming towards the light.

Where does Villains sit in relation to their previous albums? It’s always going to be hard to top Songs For The Deaf and Rated R but I’ve got this just ahead of Lullabies to Paralyse and their self-titled debut, making it arguably their best in 15 years.

KAREN LOWE

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