Album Review: Queens of the Stone Age

Album Review: Queens of the Stone Age
Album: Queens of the Stone Age (re-issue)
Label: Domino

As the press release accompanying this classic album says: “Back to the beginning”. Before Queens of the Stone Age became MTV2 favourites, and before ‘No One Knows’ became the go-to rock song of student unions across the country, this was the foundation that the legend has been built upon.

With this much overdue re-release, courtesy of Domino and Josh Homme’s own Rekords Rekords, a once rare relic is now available to all. For an album that was originally released over a decade ago (13 years, in fact) this might be a piece of QOTSA history, but just like an exceptional wine it has only grown better with age.

While Rated R explored the highs and lows of what it’s like to ingest a cacophony of illicit materials, the self-titled has a clear focus on the good vibes. There are no whimsical ditties or mind bending interludes (well, apart from the bouncy and bizarre ‘Hispanic Impressions’), just a solid hour of subterranean bass, a young Josh Homme discovering the ethereal effect of his vocal chords, and some tracks that, by all accounts, wouldn’t be out of place on Casanova’s sexy time CD mixtape.

Despite its age, the self-titled remains a stellar production, boosted in this fully remastered re-release. The bassline on ‘You Can’t Quit Me Baby’ rolls out of the speakers like luscious, gloopy golden syrup, tied to a rhythm that’s too sleazy even for Ron Jeremy. The raw edge of the guitar is sharpened to a fine point on the likes of ‘If Only’ and ‘How to Handle a Rope’, and sweetening the deal is Homme’s voice – comparatively innocent to the stinging sarcasm his voice has developed throughout QOTSA’s evolution.

The re-release also throws in three tracks from QOTSA past; ‘The Bronze’, ‘These Aren’t the Droids You’re Looking For’ and ‘Spiders and Vinegaroons’. For those who have been in possession of the album since its release (or who resorted to downloading it), the decision to scatter these songs throughout the original tracklisting is distracting, and takes away some of the original’s cohesion. That’s not to say the new-but-technically-old tracks are unwelcome, but they would have served better had they been attached to the tail-end of the album.

The other tracks are just as hook-laden as you (should) remember them. The opening riff to ‘Regular John’, with its quivering guitar line and pounding drum beat (courtesy of Homme’s Kyuss colleague, Alfredo Hernandez) raises the hair at the back of the neck, and immediately separated Queens from Homme’s past endeavours. It’s eye-opening to realise that this could have been just another brief dalliance for Homme – after all, Queens was nothing more than himself and Hernandez recording as a fake trio (Homme handled bass duties under the pseudonym Carlo Von Sexron). That this wasn’t just a flash in a pan is a testament to Homme’s desire for expanding into new territories, and it was only with Queens that he found a group which he could tinker with to his desire.

Looking back at their career, and how far the band has changed in both sound and membership over the 13 years since this album’s original release, it’s no wonder they changed their name from Gamma Ray to Queens of the Stone Age. Although present-era QOTSA struggles to live up to the critical success of Songs for the Deaf, and the band’s fans can often be found lamenting the destructive relationship that tore apart Homme and ex-bassist Nick Oliveri, this re-release is a firm reminder that they really are the Queens, and have been ever since this monster recipe was concocted somewhere in a vast expanse of desert. Long live the Queens.

Originally published at The Line of Best Fit.

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