Essential New Music: Queens Of The Stone Age’s “Villains”

Queens Of The Stone Age long ago moved beyond the stoner rock that head Queen Josh Homme originated in Kyuss, going from strength to strength as America’s finest straight-up modern-rock unit over seven LPs and 21 years. How’d the band do it? By being anything but straight-up in all but sheer physical attack. Otherwise, anything goes with these guys. If they want to play a tango, they will. If they want to do an entire record on Romanian nose flutes, they will. If ever a band could name itself after that rancid late-night TV package of ’70s Camaro-rock hits, Freedom Rock, it’d be these dudes. Mostly, they crank the tube amps to overload, letting the harmonic bombast spill over everything as they play with dynamics and hew close to being America’s only practitioners of motorik.

So, now it’s 2017, and modern rock’s most ardent formula fuckers decide to fuck with their own formula. Hence these mad scientists with Marshalls invite electro mad scientist Mark Ronson into their desert laboratory for Villains. The results are both vintage QOTSA and something unnameable at the same time. Queen-like strings abound, cheesy electronics that may just as easily be heavily processed guitars as vintage analog synths soak every surface, and the general production is as widescreen a VistaVision/Technicolor epic as John Ford’s The Searchers. But it works best when the Queens just be the Queens, whether blasting art punk on “Head Like A Haunted House” or quoting T.Rex and Georgia Satellites lyrics on the techo-glam “Un-Reborn Again.”

Tim Stegall