Review Summary: "I had an image in my head from an old Warner Bros cartoon of big, staggering robots. And that, I suppose, was my idea for Queens of the Stone Age: broken, drunk robots." - Josh Homme
Queens of the Stone Age’s debut record is not the mammoth rock ‘n’ roll beast that Songs for the Deaf is, it’s not the “just weird enough to get your attention” masterpiece that Rated R is, and it’s not the dark, twisted, over-produced (but still fantastic) mess that Lullabies to Paralyze is. What it is, though, is the first record that touched on Josh Homme’s love of stripped down and oddly hooked pop songs. This collection of songs is heavy, but poppy. It’s weird and unpredictable, but straightforward. It’s subdued and calculated, while remaining furiously groovy. It’s Queens of the Stone Age, and there’s nothing quite like it.
“So blow our mind and make it lazy
Those long long days with no escaping
I hold the wheel to let it go
Don't wanna stop, don't wanna know
If it gets you down, well just don't blame me”
The repetition of the records’ style would be too much to bear if not for Queens’ sleezed up, drugged out, and confident performance of the tracks. Alfredo Hernández isn’t as bombastic a drummer as Dave Grohl or Joey Castillo, but his more humble presence works for the personality of Queens’ debut. Josh Homme takes up guitar, vocal, bass, piano, and keyboard duties on this album, and he does each of these jobs with skill. The not-too-intrusive drum lines and plodding bass grooves support the fuzzy guitar attack, and Homme’s smooth high-range vocal melodies are thrown into the middle of it all. Verses pull the songs along just long enough for the choruses to give the listener a break. Rinse and repeat, rinse and repeat.
“Cozied up to the toilet
Face stuck to the floor
I met expectations
That I was tryin' to ignore”
The heart of the record comes through in the first three songs, and then continues to thump along right up until the album closer (the ridiculous “I Was A Teenage Handmodel.”) Packed in between the heavy hitters are several songs to tug the listening experience along at a manic and paranoid pace. Songs like “Walkin’ on the Sidewalks,” “I Would Know,” and most notably “You Can’t Quit Me Baby,” seem to exist solely for Homme to test his audience with repetition and insanity. It’s a very comedic kind of experimentation that really helps with fleshing out the personality of the band. The bands’ follow-up record, Rated R, delved further down that particular rabbit hole.
In Homme’s search for creative ground and identity, he wrote a handful of songs that still stand as some of Queens’ most effective tracks. “If Only,” “How To Handle A Rope,” and “Mexicola” in particular really solidify what would later become known as Josh’s unmistakable style. The instrumentals lean towards sonically heavy, but the vocal melodies are smooth, not abrasive and aggressive. That’s a key element to the sound and success of QotSA in my mind; the balance of almost offensively repetitive rhythm guitar and Homme’s airy, confident, almost sleazy vocals. He’s cool, he writes cool songs. He knows it, and so do we. Queens of the Stone Age’s debut is a classic.