R

Queens Of The Stone Age

Interscope Records, 2000

REVIEW BY: Sean McCarthy

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 01/08/2001

Sit back and hear this tale, fellow readers. There once was a land where the heavy, sludge-like guitar chords and psychedelic rhythms and harmonies once ruled the airwaves. The Pops down in Sub-Pop-ville were mildly displeased when the world deemed the unique sound of a couple of bands to be categorized as "grunge," but most people were able to kick back, take a couple of hits off their hookah pipes and call it good.

So much has happened in the music world since then that the early 90s seem like a fairy tale sometimes. Because fads and trends are having less of a half-life than a container of milk, it's no wonder that we're starting to see some traces of grunge nostalgia seep into music today. One band, Queens Of The Stone Age, have brought some of that sound back with their latest release, R.

Some members of QOTSA have already blazed some pioneering trails in rock and heavy metal. Before the band formed, some members were in the group Kyuss. And if you don't know who Kyuss were, don't worry. Few people do, but those who followed Kyuss followed them religiously. And while QOTSA may not match the blinding guitar solos of some of Kyuss's songs, they do match their intensity as well as the essence of the former band. If you like, QOTSA, it's a safe bet to assume you really, really like them.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

R kicks off with a fuzz that seems fit for a Gish-era Smashing Pumpkins. Joshua Homme then gives a grocery-store list of a rock star's cocktail which finishes with Rob Halford giving a spirited stamp on the final chorus word, "C-C-C-C-C-Cocaine!" The excess of "Feel Good Hit Of The Summer," is a welcome relief to some of the toned-down offerings of bands like Pearl Jam and the Smashing Pumpkins.

A major plus for QOTSA is the sense of humor intact in most of the songs. "Leg Of Lamb" has Homme's tongue so firmly planted in his cheek, you expect it to break the skin. Homework's pointless, tired of people's bitching and moaning - ahh, the true essence of heavy metal lyrics. Other songs, such as "Monsters In The Parasol," are either vivid accounts of acid trips gone bad or a b-movie freak show homage (same thing?).

Fans of Kyuss needn't worry. QOTSA's musical abilities are anything but simple. "Quick And To The Pointless" and "I Think I Lost My Head" are both technically sophisticated tracks. But the gem of R is "Better Living Through Chemistry." Bassist Nick Oliveri and Homme's guitar playing, along with Barrett Martin's percussion and Nick Lucero's drumming collide like a hurricane on this six-minute epic. It seems like a blending of three separate songs into a sludgy epic.

Queens Of The Stone Age aren't on any nostalgia trip. Just as Soundgarden was able to use the elements that made Led Zeppelin a great band without totally aping their style, QOTSA mine what was effective with the psychedelic sounds of grunge and make them into something entirely their own.

What makes R one of the best releases of 2000 is its simple reaffirmation of heavy metal's virtues. The band shows that you don't need to incorporate rap, have pig-faced masks or go bare-chested and confess that you're a jerk to all your former significant others. With a twisted sense of humor, a lot of pot and some killer musical chops, R is a victory for simplicity. No recount needed.

Rating: B+

User Rating: Not Yet Rated


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© 2001 Sean McCarthy and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Interscope Records, and is used for informational purposes only.