Review Summary: Era Vulgaris is a gem, but with multiple listens needed to enjoy Era Vulgaris and the feeling of QOTSA truly being Josh Homme and friends is enough proof to show why Era Vulgaris is not a classic release.
I wouldn’t be lying when I say that I was introduced to Queens of the Stone Age through Rock Band and Guitar Hero III. Last month, I got Guitar Hero III and discovered that 3’s & 7’s from the very same album I was still trying to decide on whether or not it’s worth purchasing was featured on Guitar Hero III. After playing through 3’s & 7’s on GHIII,
Queens caught my interest. With that in mind, I got Era Vulgaris, in hopes of hearing more songs like 3’s & 7’s.
After taking a few serious listens to Era Vulgaris, it’s clear that the band isn’t the same since Songs for the Deaf. When comparing the fun yet dark personality of Songs for the Deaf to Era Vulgaris, Era Vulgaris seems to be aiming for a more murky and psychedelic atmosphere rather than a perfected mainstream sound. With that murkiness and psychedelia comes the picture that Era Vulgaris paints. According to Homme, he believes that we have entered the vulgar ages. Not only is this an intriguing concept, Homme’s lyrics and guitar work, along with the rest of the band combine forces to sell this idea of a ‘Vulgar Era’. However, it takes a while to digest Era Vulgaris. Upon first listen, the listener will probably think that Era Vulgaris is awkwardly structured in terms of rhythm with up tempo drumming, roaring guitar riffs, wailing vocals, and bass lines that forcefully splice themselves into the mix. However, Era Vulgaris is a grower; if the listener were to continue listening to it, the listener should take note that as awkward as it may sound on first listen rhythm wise, it actually works together to show a more aggressive side to QOTSA, while still retaining the fun and interest of any Queens album.
The main reason why Era Vulgaris is enjoyable is because of Josh Homme’s carefully constructed guitar structures and added melodies. However, Homme’s melodies tend to be awkward when his guitar sounds harsh, like in Misfit Love. Even though Homme’s soothing vocal tones can go too far, it’s just how well he’s able to deliver on his guitar that saves him. Homme mainly plays a mix of 70’s psychedelia and distorted hard rock, similar to the style of Army of Anyone’s Dean DeLeo. Homme takes it a step further when he experiments with punk elements in Misfit Love, Battery Acid, and Run, Pig, Run. Speaking of Run, Pig, Run, though it may be QOTSA’s strangest moment in Era Vulgaris that may drive the listener insane with noise, the shining moment of Run, Pig, Run is with Homme’s incredible guitar work.
Homme’s guitar is at its murkiest in Run, Pig, Run, while he pounds his guitar down to the ground with fading melodies and multiple effects all around, then finally ending with a bang when the guitar solo clocks in, overshadowing anything that made Turnin’ on the Screw and 3’s & 7’s interesting.
But why is Era Vulgaris not a classic? The fact that the listener had to get attached to this album in the first place through multiple listens is more than enough proof to explain why Era Vulgaris does not deserve a 5. Furthermore, Era Vulgaris feels more like a Josh Homme solo album. The best way to sum up Era Vulgaris is by stating that Josh Homme stamps his name over the label that says ‘Queens of the Stone Age’ on the album cover. Sure, the rest of the band sounds good, but the drumming and bass work feels….well, average, only tasked with providing rhythm to Homme and his guitar. The only time where QOTSA sounds like a band and not ‘The Josh Homme Show’ is in 3’s & 7’s and Sick, Sick, Sick, despite being able to somehow combine together to sell the ‘Vulgar Era’ concept.
Era Vulgaris is a gem, but this is not the best Queens album. Again, the fact that the listener has to listen to this album multiple times before he can truly enjoy Era Vulgaris proves that Era Vulgaris is neither worth a 5 nor is it the best Queens album. Nonetheless, Era Vulgaris is one of the better constructed albums of 2007. Get this, it’s a solid QOTSA release, though they have done better. (Songs for the Deaf and Rated R, anyone?)