Queens of the Stone Age is one the most recognized and acclaimed modern rock bands today. Led by legendary badass Josh Homme, who with his previous band Kyuss is often accredited to founding the desert rock genre, Queens have released 7 diverse rock albums while still maintaining an unquestionably signature sound. I have been a fan of Queens from their brash and ballsy self-titled debut to their introspective “…Like Clockwork” which was the band’s last outing if you don’t count Homme’s project with Iggy Pop last year. Needless to say, “Villains” was one of my most anticipated albums to come out this year.
Things started off shakily, however, with the release of the two singles “The Way You Used to Do” and “The Evil Has Landed”. I had serious concerns with the production that in my opinion made the songs sound thin. In the context of the full album the issues I had with the production went away as it became clear how well the instruments and vocals were balanced while having plenty of guts left over.
Homme has never been more full of swagger than on this record from the epic opener “Feet Don’t Fail Me” to “Head Like a Haunted House”, I swear if he had any more strut to his stuff he would be hip thrusting my ears through my headphones. With the affectations he puts on his voice he at times sounds like a dead ringer for David Bowie or a manic Elvis. It sounds like he is having a great time living life after actually being declared legally dead from MRSA a few years ago. The guitar matches this swagger perfectly with a suitably funky tone and the bass is a thumping great time. The rhythm in general is excellent.
It’s not all boogie rock on “Villains”, though. “Un-Reborn Again” is a great slow song with a beautifully arranged violin towards the end and “Fortress” is a soft track that sounds like it could have come straight out of “…Like Clockwork”. There are great details throughout the album like the synths that start it up sounding like an ’80s sci-fi movie or bassist Michael Shuman’s backing screams towards the end of “Domesticated Animals”, sounding reminiscent of former bassist Nick Oliveri who provided some great backup vocals in the band’s previous discography.
My favorite track is “Head Like a Haunted House”. It’s such a fun song with an awesome beat, great punk guitars, a great vocal performance, and I love the whiny female backup vocals that pop up. There is not one song I dislike, although it did take a few listens to start enjoying “Hideaway” and “Villains of Circumstance”.
What is it about Queens of the Stone Age that makes them so damn good? They are not afraid to change up their sound and make some strange songs but more often than not they pull it off and they have done it again on “Villains”. Queens is one of those rare bands that is loved by the mainstream and the die-hard, by critics and casual fans. If you are a fan of classic rock you could find something to enjoy here. If you are a fan of stoner rock or punk you could find something to enjoy here. It may take a few listens, but once you get hooked on Queens of the Stone Age you will fall in love and have an insatiable appetite for more of their music. “Villains” has given me plenty to chew on until they release their next great record, which at this point seems like a given rather than a hope.