Queens of the Stone Age

When an album is released with a cover that should be wrapped in plain brown paper you just know the contents are going to be good. Like your dad yelling "turn that shit down!" good. No, this is not for faint of heart, ballad-lovin' ponces. This is for those of us who go to a show not minding that our ears will be ringing for days after. Queens of the Stone Age remains, for those in-the-know, the best. Like Jane's Addiction say, or The Pixies, QOTSA released a debut without any discernible singles or catchy hooks, yet the product was a beast from start to finish. Raw, jagged, unpolished and so, so dirty.

Queens of the Stone Age originally came out in 1998. The last smoldering flames of grunge had all but died away but there were still a few around fanning its flame, rock viking Josh Homme for one. Is it any coincidence that he tried to get Mark Lanegan from Screaming Trees (for whom he had briefly moonlighted as a touring guitarist) to make a guest appearance? The sound, what Homme dubbed "Robot Rock," is rooted in that grunge minimalism. Take the propulsion of opening track 'Regular John,' reminiscent of Soundgarden intertwined with Homme's wonderful stoned-out voice, or the Alice In Chains-sounding 'Walkin' On The Sidewalks'. The album is steeped in West Coast hard rock, heavy power chords, repetitive riffs and Homme's understated vocals sounding like he just got out of bed.

It's a safe bet that a few fans will be unfamiliar with this gem. Without a 'Feel Good Hit Of The Summer' or 'No One Knows' it came with a bang and disappeared like a spent firecracker. There is something decidedly underground about it, harking back to the garage bands of the 60s with its simple, yet powerful, arrangements and almost total absence of any flashy guitar solos. Songs like 'Avon', with its relentless riffs and Homme's straightforward delivery, or the sinister 'You Would Know' are typical of the album's understated power. Yet there is still a strong melodious streak just riding above the crunching riffs, as in 'Avon' where you can headbang while still sweetly humming along to Homme's "doo, doo, doo's."

The original album is fattened up by three songs, oddly dropped into the original running order: 'The Bronze', the rather pointless instrumental 'These Aren't the Droids You're Looking For' and the cool 'Spiders Vinegaroons'. While adding nothing to the original recording they don't distract from it either. You still have this stellar rock behemoth in all its glory.

QOTSA may now resemble a revolving door of rock come-rs and go-ers with Homme as a tyrannical Captain Bligh reshuffling his crew as the mood takes him, but at the start it was just him and former Kyuss drummer Alfredo Hernandez along with Homme's alter-ego, bass player "Carlo Van Sexron". The result is an unpolished and uncompromising epic. Spruced up and repackaged it can now rise from the dead like a headbanging Lazarus to reclaim its place among the living.

Overall

8

out of 10

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