Review Summary: Like always, QOTSA bring the rock even without Olivieri or Lanegan, and provides a showcase for Homme's songwriting talents.
Already an album off the departure of bassist Nick Oliveri, and freshly off the heels of the departure of Mark Lanegan, one might wonder how the Queens of the Stone Age would fare without the creative input of those two seemingly permanent members. However, QOTSA has always featured a revolving lineup, centered around Josh Homme. And, indeed, Homme reacts to the situation at hand very well, releasing Era Vulgaris, which may not be the band's best album, but it surely is their most cohesive effort to date.
The album itself has a very slow, plodding feel, with a variety of gargantuan, sludgy riffs. It is their heaviest album of their career, and by the end of the album, the listener will almost surely have a pounding headache. Which is, of course, a compliment. Even through all the sludginess, Homme's pop appeal shines through catchy riffs and choruses that keeps the listener interested.
The album begins brilliantly with the excellent "Turnin' on the Screw". The boneheaded riff is insanely catchy, as are Homme's falsetto vocals. The middle section contains a very loud spiraling guitar solo which lasts until the last minute or so before seguing back into the third verse. It could very well be QOTSA's best opener, and an indication of what's to come for the album.
"Sick, Sick, Sick", the first single, is, oddly enough, the heaviest song on the album. While it probably won't crack the top 100 anytime soon, I doubt QOTSA were expecting it too. The song itself is the catchiest on the album, and it's hard to even think about it without getting it stuck in your head. Extra points for Julian Casablancas of The Strokes for making a guest vocal appearance.
"I'm Desginer" is a rather odd song. Indeed, the verses are sung, rather spoken, by Homme about the travails of Hollywood and selling out, but the lyrics may be the worst on the album. Instead of sounding witty, they sound constrained and forced. The song is mercilissly saved by a great, hypnotic chorus, but as it stands, it is the worst song on the album.
"Into the Hollow" follows in vein of the Lullabies to Paralyze song "Someone's in the Wolf". The vocals are very haunting and hypnotic, and the song emphasizes QOTSA's stoner rock appeal. It's one of the best songs on the CD, both vocally and lyrically.
"Misfit Love" features the best riffing on the album, leading into over a minute before the vocals kick in. The song simply pounds itself into your head, regardless of the lack of a hook or even discernible song structure. Well, that isn't entirely true: the song's haunting ending is ther best part.
"Battery Acid" is one of the more dull songs on the album, with nothing really jumping out at the listener. Sure, the riffing is good, but the song goes absolutely nowhere. The song leads somewhere, however. It leads into the excellent "Make It Wit Chu", a surprisingly sexy, soulful track that is sung by Homme in his best falsetto. This will probably be the most played song on the album during sex.
"3's and 7's", the second single (and featured on Guitar Hero III), features some crazy guitarwork to begin, and is simply too catchy to be ignored. Bonus points for the brief but awesome guitar solo at the end.
"Suture Up Your Future" is, like "Make It Wit Chu", a rather soulful track but much more haunting by nature. The bass line is excellent throughout, and, dispite the title, contains some excellent lyrics.
"River in the Road" leans heavily on psychedelia, and despite the backing vocals of Mark Lanegan (the only song he appeared on), it's rather forgettable. "Run, Pig, Run" features some excellent riffing, and while not the ideal closer, is an excellent track to headbang to.
While not everything works, mostly everything does, and while the songs may seem to run into each other on first listen, they find themselves discernible on repeated listens. One thing is for certain, QOTSA are a breath of fresh air in today's cookie cutter post grunge rock landscape.
Turnin' on the Screw
Sick, Sick, Sick
Into the Hollow
Make It Wit Chu
3's and 7's
Suture Up Your Future