MGF Reviews Queens of the Stone Age – Era Vulgaris


Queens of the Stone Age – Era Vulgaris
Interscope (6/12/07)
Rock / Alternative

The latest Queens of the Stone Age disc was supposed to feature Trent Reznor, Billy Gibbons from ZZ Top, and Death From Above 1979 bassist Jesse Keeler. It resulted in a Tom Waits track being covered, with rumors of other individuals, such as deceased humorist Erma Bombeck making an appearance. However, there was no Gibbons, no Keeler, the album’s title track, “Era Vulgaris” and Reznor’s backing vocals were nowhere to be found. And the Tom Waits cover of “Goin’ Out West”? Yeah, that made it out onto a limited edition B-side available in Europe. Founding member and former bassist Nick Oliveri is also not on the album, making it the second album without his maniacal shrieks.

So what is on Era Vulgaris, Josh Homme’s latest rock offering? A whole lot of rock, for one thing. Forging ahead in yet another direction, Era Vulgaris moves away from the dark and moody sounds that existed on the Queens’ previous release, Lullabies to Paralyze, in what appears to be an attempt to go back in time and re-visit earlier Queens sounds, but without the benefit of Oliveri’s manifest rage. Which, really, makes perfect sense considering what Queens of the Stone Age really are—a band that has a revolving door of band mates and musicians and have never really settled on a specific sound for any of their releases. Instead of attempting to try and give us a faithful recreation of earlier Queens sounds, we’re instead given privy to Homme’s reinterpretation of that sound, without his shirtless, girlfriend-beating compatriot shrieking like a banshee in the background. Oh, sure, we’re given a tease of what things might have sounded like—there’s some decidedly Oliveri-esque shrieks heard about five seconds into the start of “Sick, Sick, Sick”—but other than that, we’re given to Homme’s falsetto and wit throughout the rest of the album.

While some have bemoaned the absence of Oliveri and what he brought to the table as part of Queens creative force, feeling that his inarticulate rage and frantic playing were a Yin to Homme’s laidback singing and cool grooves, his complete and utter absence (yes, I realize it’s been two f*cking albums and three years, but I’m trying to make a point here) on Era Vulgaris is actually a welcome relief. One of the contributing influences to the construction of the album was the city of Los Angeles, with all of the shallowness and depravity that the City of Angels implies. Musically, this is reflected with a frantic, almost annoyed/rushed feel a lot of the songs have, as seen with songs like “I’m Designer”, “Misfit Love” and “Battery Acid”. “I’m Designer”, in particular, is a brilliant f*cking tune, which basically works as a running indictment of L.A. in particular and Western culture in general, with Homme giving a running commentary at his smart-assed finest. I don’t think I ever could’ve cracked up hearing someone sing “nice mutt”.

Don’t worry, though. Era Vulgaris still has enough familiar elements to still sound like Queens of the Stone Age. “3’s & 7’s”, which has ‘future single’ and ‘Guitar Hero III song’ written all over it, is probably one of the more rocking tracks on the album. Those who like the meandering jam session tracks can take comfort with “Into the Hollow” and Desert Sessions reworked track “Make It With Chu”, which is gonna start clocking in on a lot of “Best Songs to Mack To” lists in the near future.

This album rocks, it’s different, it’s fun, and it’s something to which you either wanna f*ck or do drugs. This is what rock and roll is about, really, so thank God for Josh Homme and the rest of the Queens of the Stone Age lads.

Oh yeah, some dude named Julian Casablancas appears on the record. Whoever he is.

I give this album four peyote buttons out of five. Or 8 Throbbing Pulses out of 10 on the Inside Pulse Scale. Or whatever. It’s a good album. Go out and buy it or pirate it or whatever.