Heard It Yet?: Queens of the Stone Age – Rated R

Rated R

Artist: Queens of the Stone Age
Album: R
Label: Polydor
Released: 2000

Ok, I’ve got to be honest with you. I’m fairly sure that anyone who really gives a hoot about music is going to have at least heard of the mighty Queens of the Stone Age, and chances are if you’ve heard of them, then you’ve heard this album. But, after a torrent of rainy days and miserable grey skies, May Day has seen the sun decide to come out and that’s why this Heard It Yet is going to be on one of my all time favourite summer records.

It’s never been quite sure what the real name of this album is – whether it be Rated R or just R – given the plain cover that adorns the CD. But whatever it’s name is, the themes prevalent throughout the eleven tracks would certainly make this worthy of an R rating.

The album opener, the hilariously titled ‘Feel Good Hit of the Summer’ sums up Josh Homme’s enjoyable honest take on life, equating happiness to a list of hard drugs that are sure to brighten up any drug user’s day. It’s questionable material to sing about, but Homme isn’t worried about any reprecussions – the song shouts from the rooftops about the band’s history with drugs, and also provides an intrinsic link between QOTSA and their stoner band roots.

I doubt there is anyone who has never heard ‘Lost Art of Keeping a Secret’, which remains to this day one of QOTSA’s greatest single tracks. The simple drum fill that comes straight in after the first track immediately changes the pace, and the twinkly keyboard/glockenspiel additions add a unique, bouncy atmosphere to the whole track, which in effect turns the album so far from a sordid tale of drugs to a candy floss rant about people not being able to keep their mouths shut.

Josh Homme and Nick Oliveri

The working combination of Oliveri and Homme has been one that many fans have missed since Oliveri’s departure.

Fellow stand out track, ‘Better Living Through Chemistry’ opens with a fuzzy guitar tone that cools things down, before an exotic bongo drum beat pops into the speakers like bubble wrap, and the song build up to include spaced out aaaahs, with a mix that pitches the instruments all over that gives the impression of one big long cosmic trip.

Following on from this, ‘Monsters In the Parasol’ couldn’t possibly get any more intimidating. With chugging guitars that scale up and down, following Homme’s irreverent lyrics the whole atmosphere is turned on its head when during the chorus a bizarre and genuinely creeping whispering adds a dark and disturbing attitude.

Josh Homme

It’s now fair to suggest that QOTSA has become a project lead by Homme, with a selection of musicians who revolve around him.

Unlike the more groovy, bass orientated attitude of their debut full length (another album that I could quite happily list as a must listen) R takes a more experimental attitude, as seen on tracks such as ‘In The Fade’ which features now regular QOTSA guest Mark Lanegan. In The Fade carries a haunting melody, and as Lanegan croaks in his own style “you live ’till you die” the track goes a long way to epitomise the band’s carefree attitude to both their music and their life. It’s these moments of reflection, which contrast so strongly to the “let’s all take drugs and get fucked” attitude of the rest of the album that puts it all into perspective and makes you think. However, just like a drug addiction, the song is immediately followed by a reprisal of the opening track – life goes on.

What I love about this album is the way it has created a kind of self destruct story within the album. It’s not a concept album per se, but the way we seem to follow a protagonist go from feeling good being off his tits on drugs, to the end of the album where ‘Tension Head’ sees Oliveri screaming “I’m feeling so sick/No more, no more”. Despite the feel good factor of the album, there is a dark message here that can always be applied if you risk it all in the name of fun.

Nick Oliveri

However, Oliveri brought a lot to this record, with gravelly vocals and a deeply disturbing mastery of his bass, that new QOTSA just cannot hope to rekindle.

The album closes with ‘I Think I Lost My Headache’, an instrumental track that closes things with the relative peacefulness of an acoustic guitar and piano. It’s the comedown, the reflection before the whole thing begins again.

It’s a brilliant album, full of the energy and pace they exhibited on their debut, but with a coherent subject matter that makes it all seem so much more like an album rather than a collection of songs. If you’re looking for a soundtrack for this summer, then you can’t go wrong to backing it with Rated R by Queens of the Stone Age.

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