The most hotly anticipated album this year? The sheer fervour of excitement that surrounded the mysterious getting together of Josh Homme, Dave Grohl and John Paul Jones got more knickers in a twist than a public execution of Gary Glitter ever could. But is it any good?
Supergroups have disappointed in the past: Grohl’s own Probot passed by with a meagre whimper; Jack White’s The Dead Weather are even shitter than The White Stripes and Velvet Revolver are just a bit embarrassing. But the key here is Homme’s presence. If there’s one musician in the world who knows about how to put a collaboration together and make it right, it’s the founder of the Desert Sessions, Queens of the Stone Age and an all round musical whore – Joshua Homme.
Homme dominates proceedings here. It’s immediately obvious that the album is unmistakably Queens in style. However, despite the presence of Grohl, it’s not a trip down the memory lane of Songs For The Deaf. Instead Era Vulgaris immediately becomes the obvious comparison. ‘New Fang’s whimsical guitar strains sound like a distant cousin of ‘3’s and 7’s’; the erratic riffing of ‘Mind Eraser, No Chaser’ harks of ‘Battery Acid’ and perhaps most noticeable of all is the hypnotising chorus of ‘Interludes With Ludes’, sounding eerily similar to ‘I’m Designer’, albeit slowed to bizarre tango pace. All the while, Homme’s voice remains uniquely mischievous and devilish, polished to an impeccable shine.
There are moments that only a Nazi couldn’t fall in love with: ‘Scumbag Blues’ sounds like the Queens borrowing from The Beegees with foot stompingly good results and ‘Elephants’ bouncing rhythm stomps brazenly all over the place. Meanwhile the climactic riff in ‘No One Loves Me, And Neither Do I’ drives a nail into the grooviest coffin you did ever hear. If it doesn’t make you want to twitch uncontrollably, then I’m afraid you got no soul, brotha. And you’re also responsible for the genocide of over six million Jews.
To be honest what does it matter that there’s more than a whiff of Queens in here? Them Crooked Vultures undeniably rocks harder than the majority of albums released this decade, let alone this year. By the end, you’re left feeling enviable – how dare God/Brahma/Allah or whatever spiritual deity you chose to believe in give Homme so much talent that he can orchestrate something like this and still somehow never run out of ideas?
Them Crooked Vultures is one of the best rock albums of this year. It’s infectious and attention-grabbing, showing what can happen when three talented, if not historically revered, musicians can achieve when they lock in to that special place. There will probably be no Led Zeppelin reunion; it’ll be a long time before Foo Fighters do anything exciting again, and even Homme might never be able to find the words to tempt Nick Oliveri back into QOTSA. But Them Crooked Vultures makes up for all of that, and more.