- Excellent Production
- Josh Homme's Vocal Masterclass
- The Reinvention of Their Sound
Let’s start off by stating the obvious, this record is designed to be heard everywhere, on the radio, on adverts and all over mainstream media. Matching Royal Blood’s palatable muscle whilst retaining their own odd wondrous idiosyncrasies, Homme and co are prepped to take over the world. Instead of co headlining or playing second fiddle at festivals they’ll now surely be undisputed headliners thanks to this invigorating record.
Mark Ronson being announced as producer raised some eyebrows, fears that we’d get a softer sell out record or a misguided vanity project have quickly dissipated thanks to the obvious chemistry that they play off on, over the course of this record. It’s guitars are sterile and robotic instead of warm and loose, Homme gives arguably his best performance yet with a crooning retro swagger throughout and each song is densely layered, being produced to perfection. The structures can be predictably coherent whilst also being impressively ambitious. It feels like a real yin and yang relationship between these two monoliths of completely opposing worlds has been the formula to this albums success.
‘Feet Don’t Fail Me Know’ builds from a pulsating beat with 80’s synths and otherworldly chanting, once the desert funk riff that this song centres around kicks in it is pure hypnotic glory. “When the needle hit the grove, I commenced moving” falls effortlessly from the singers lips in this Wild Cherry homage with it eventually giving way to a trademark seasick solo before building up again from scratch. At times during the album Homme riffs off of David Bowie’s inflections and phrasings as if he were a modern day ‘Thin White Duke’. Coupled with the previously released finger clicking lead single ‘The Way You Used To Do’ the record gets off to a relentlessly catchy start.
‘Domesticated Animals’ is more encompassing of their earlier sound with a shifting unsettling mechanical riff used as the bedrock for the verses. The next track ‘Fortress’ slows things down starting with a violin and a mellow soundscape that develops into an indie rock love song. The earnestness in Homme’s voice whilst singing “If your fortress is under siege, you can always run to me” helps the band pull off these softer more radio friendly songs.
‘Head Like A Haunted House’ is enigmatic and fun as it speeds by with vocal quips that are met by all manner of strange sound effects and call backs whilst the spiralling riff that starts ‘The Evil Has Landed’ calls back to ‘Rated R’ numbers like ‘Monsters In The Parasol’. It is the only song that could stylistically feature on one of their first three records, ending with a rockabilly flourish that comes way out of left field.
Somber closer ‘Villains of Circumstances’ is the most obvious display of Homme’s new wave vocal stylings, feeling like their answer to a slow remorseful number like Roxy Music’s ‘Avalon’. The swinging feel in the chorus and desolate minimalist start in the verse is a wonderful juxtaposition of differing moods in this fitting closer to the album.
Queens of the Stone Age and Mark Ronson have produced a defining statement for this legendary band, there is a clear intent to dominate the charts and to be placed at the top tree alongside the biggest acts around. It is a listenable streamlined version of the group that treads a lot of new ground throughout its 9 tracks. Many bands fail to transition into radio friendly territories, wether it’s through alienating their core fans or through a drop in quality in the newer material; this however is an absolute triumph and a perfect follow up to 2013’s ‘…Like Clockwork’.