Queens of the Stone Age - Villains

by Nathan Fidler Rating:7 Release Date:2017-08-25

In a recent piece of video marketing for their new Villains album, Liam Lynch interviews the persona of each previous Queens of the Stone Age album regarding the new effort. Tellingly, Songs For The Death refuses to listen to the new album “Cuz Nick’s not on it” and asks “Where’s Dave?”. It’s an attitude they’re always going to battle against and they clearly know it.

Like Clockwork was a return to form for Josh Homme, having taken a big long break he reasserted himself as the anti-hero by studying his mortality more closely than ever. After another short break, we’re hoping for even more, and we just about get it.

The big commotion this time around was the choice of producer: pop guru Mark Ronson. Promising a slinkier, more danceable album ‘The Way You Used To Do’ confirmed the fears of those fans who cling so dearly to the bruising, tank-top QOTSA of old. For fans who appreciate the constant evolution of the band however, it was a sign of good things to come.

That single was followed by the scratchy, lean ‘The Evil Has Landed’, putting out some Them Crooked Vultures vibes while turning the death-fascination of the last album on it's head with the line “Going on a living spree” and “Here. We. Come”. Homme sounds like he’s having fun across this album in fact.

There are disappointing shades of the Era Vulgaris sound though - boxy drums which rely on snare-bass-snare-bass drum repetition and some lifeless guitar retching (see ‘Un-Reborn Again’, where there's even a bit of sax). ‘Villains of Circumstance’ attempts to emulate the grander Like Clockwork moments, and while it’s not unenjoyable, it certainly doesn’t feel quite as compelling.

So where are Homme’s friends this time? He’s claimed that there are no cameos this time in an attempt to avoid the band becoming a parody. However, it’s hard to see how some Lanegan crooning or some hungry Grohl drumming couldn’t have advanced things that extra notch. 

‘Head Like a Haunted House’ is one of the few songs with pace from start to finish, but the whole album rests on the leather-jacket clad, toothpick wielding Homme as there is little invention in the background - whether that's because of a lack of talent or Ronson's direction isn't clear. ‘Domesticated Animals’ ambles initially, but builds to an amusing back and forth of “Tell us where the gold is/ Or what?/We want to help you rule the world/ I think not”, just about saving itself.

Imps are on the shoulders of all these songs, even ‘Fortress’ which tries to offer comfort. Sadly, they all take a while to get going and don’t prove anything other the fact that Ronson can quite happily slim the thuggish side of the band out. It works for the most part, but this feels like a step in a direction many won't want them to continue in any further in.

There is little desert here anymore, and while there is just enough crazy in greasy dollops to remind you why you love Homme so much, Villains won’t rank highly with some.  

 

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