Josh Homme and his revolving cast of Queens of the Stone Age are back to usher in the Era Vulgaris. The album is an ode to the times, QOTSA style. Not a scathing reprimand of corrupt political bureaucracies or a morally devoid society, but an embrace of lifestyles only we can attain: cheap cigarettes, ample drugs, on demand porno, and bands like this being able to pursue their goals on their terms.
Era’s first track, ‚”Turnin’ on the Screw” sets the tone for the album. It blends previous styles from the spooky, spacey more produced sounds of Lullabies To Paralyze to the leaner, meaner sounds of the early days. The song’s bare-bones drums are soon accompanied by dirty swaggering guitars that sound loose, but in repetition come together in odd syncopation reminiscent of Rated R‘s “Leg of Lamb.” Then comes Homme’s 6′ 4″ falsetto, an unusual, but endearing quality.
The first single “Sick, Sick, Sick”delivers their patented vicious guitar assault, like a shiv to the gut in a prison cafeteria. In essence, the certain element of danger that left with Nick Oliveri is back.
What is dubbed as QOTSA’s “stoner rock‚” a label Josh hates, is a blend of music philosophies; the dark, heavy pounding Sabbath-like riffs with sprinkles of blues inspired ZZ Top jams. Then throw in some 80s sunset strip swagger, 90s “I don’t give a fuck” delivery, and there you have it. QOTSA takes a searing riff and repeats it almost ad-nauseum to the untrained ear. But, with every line or two a clever blues harmonic or subtle bending of a note is added to give the chords dynamics. This changes what may sound like a droning loop into a fierce chorus of six string beasts churning and breathing and coming to life.
Another favorite on the album is “Battery Acid.” The guitar is traditionally punk, then played at half speed, given the hypnotic, stoner treatment and recorded with a low-fi garage quality.
Queens retools “Make it Wit Chu” for Era. Originally a Desert Sessions recording, (one of Josh’s Half dozen side projects) the song retains the band’s theme of overt sexuality and mayhem while adding a slithering, sleazy lounge feel. The Desert Sessions recordings are fueled by drug binges that lead to trips into the desert for artists eager to work with Homme. Era is loaded with surprise party-buddies. Mainstay Mark Lanegan lends his gruff vocals, as does The Strokes Julian Casablancas and Trent Reznor.
Era Vulgaris is overwhelming guitar, crunchy bass, and simple, but effective, drums with enough balls for any metal fan. A playful, yet dark, sexuality makes them acceptable for the ladies too. Their music is as much at home on your car stereo as it is in a strip club or at a party.
Reviewer’s suggestion: give it a whirl on the headphones. Era Vulgaris is a summer must-have continuing the tradition of debauchery-filled Queens of the Stone Age music that you can fight or fuck to.
Article originally appeared in REAX #15, August 15 2007
QOTSA “Turnin’ on the Screw” – The Taberncale, Atlanta 9.22.2007