Review Summary: "KRDL 109! We spoil music for everyone!"
The essential stoner metal outfit Kyuss is easily one of my favorite bands of all time. It has everything I look for in a metal band: good balance between aggressive and more melodic vocals, sickening, churning riffs, thick bass lines, and some top-notch drum work (especially for only one bass drum being used). However, internal problems broke out in the band, with guitarist Josh Homme causing the majority of the in-band conflict. The band ended up disbanding in 1995, with Homme wanting to create a new project but not knowing what to do. He had poured all his mind and soul into Kyuss and his creative force was spent. Homme was down, but not out. After a short break, Homme formed a new, more radio-friendly project called Queens Of The Stone Age, retaining all the good things about Kyuss, but toned down to fit a radio format. Songs For The Deaf is often considered the band's magnum opus, an engaging thrill-ride that never lets you go until the final strum. Although I disagree with this statement and believe Rated R is their best work, this is still a fully satisfying rock record.
First, let's talk about Songs For The Deaf's positive aspects. Namely, the guitar work. Homme's leads can range from sludgy riffage to soaring melodics and even chugging. The harmonics used on this album are especially great as well. Whether it's the relentless chugging riff of "A Song For The Dead" or the wailing melodies of "Go With The Flow", and his killer distorted chugs on album highlight "The Sky Is Fallin'" Homme's guitar parts always offer something new and exciting in a world where modern rock is a recycled-riff haven. Bassist Nick Oliveri (also the original bassist of Kyuss) offers one of the most intriguing bass performances I've heard. His parts aren't that complicated but the effects he uses on his bass are jaw-dropping. Whether it's opening bass riff of "First It Giveth" where Oliveri slides all up and down the neck giving an incredible performance, or his steady, sludgy grooving on "A Song For The Deaf" and "God Is In The Radio", he's always bringing something new to the table. Bass is not focused on a great deal on this album, but when Oliveri gets his chance to shine he takes full advantage and is always giving it his all. Oliveri also contributes vocals-everything from melodious tenor offerings ("Gonna Leave You") to higher-pitched, ear-splitting screams ("Millionaire", "Six Shooter") as well as harmonizing with Homme ("The Sky Is Fallin'") Oliveri does it all with his voice here, although it doesn't always work.
Mark Lanegan is an incredibly capable vocalist as well as know from his Screaming Trees days. His soothing baritone is used to its full extent on this record, and his harmonies with Homme are infectious as well as technically brilliant. I especially like his performances on "Hangin' Tree" and "First It Giveth". "Hangin' Tree" utilizes the lower part of Lanegan's range, creating some twisting, droning melodies that scream album highlight. "First It Giveth" features some incredible harmonizing during the chorus and Lanegan pulling some higher notes out of his pocket during the verse. Drummer Dave Grohl is also especially on point during this track with a furious drumbeat that sounds simple on paper but is f*cking difficult to play in reality. His cymbal work on here is really incredible-he plays incredibly fast sixteenths during the verses that are extremely difficult to keep consistent. And if you think the chorus is simple drumming, just remember Grohl only uses one kick drum. Yeah, you heard me correctly. His other performances are great as well; the funeral march-esque snare rolls on "God Is In The Radio" and his furious cadences on "Song For The Dead" lifted directly out of a Black Flag song are only two examples of how great of a performance this guy gives. All the examples listed above are what make Songs For The Deaf a great album to listen to. However, there are some glaring flaws I need to point out.
The first of these is that two songs are nothing but complete filler, those being the atrocious "Six Shooter" and the completely unnecessary "Another Love Song". "Six Shooter" is probably the lesser of two evils, as it barely eclipses a one-minute running time. Nick Oliveri shrieks his lungs out of his chest on this track (with plenty of voice cracks to boot) swearing like a sailor and threatening to "shoot, shoot, shoot" and "f*cking kill your best friend". The reason I don't like this song is simple; it's completely dishonest. Nick Oliveri puts on his best poker face and pretends to be mad, punctuating every line with a "F*ck" because I guess it gets his point across better. The whole song seems like such a charade that I can't help but chuckle when it plays; If the band wrote it as a joke, then they sure as hell succeeded. "Another Love Song" is simply wasted potential. Musically it's not that bad; the chords can get a bit stale after a few listens, but that's beside the point. The problem with this one is its ridiculously grating chorus. The annoying repetition of "you're just another love song" really gets on my nerves by the end of the chorus, and then a few seconds later I inevitably realize I have to sit through 2 more of them. Hello, skip button.
The second flaw is Josh Homme's penchant for extremely repetitive choruses. Apparently when this guy thinks of a good lyric, he feels the need to sing it endlessly, because that'll show his audience how amazing his writing is. Right? Wrong. Below is a list of songs on this album that simply repeat the same line (not even a phrase of lines) over and over and call it a chorus.
First It Giveth
The Sky Is Fallin'
Gonna Leave You
Do It Again
God Is In The Radio
Another Love Song
That's 6 of 14 songs, almost half. So half of these song's choruses are simply throwaways, boring sections of otherwise good songs that drag the rating of the album down (and technically there's only 13 choruses, since "Six Shooter" doesn't have one). However, other than what I just mentioned, this is a very enjoyable album from very accomplished songwriters. I recommend this album as a starting point for anyone looking to get into the band, as well as fans of Homme's other projects and just rock fans in general.
Recommended Tracks (Asterisk signifies best song on album)
You Think I Ain't Worth A Dollar, But I Feel Like A Millionaire
First It Giveth
A Song For The Dead
The Sky Is Fallin'*
Go With The Flow
God Is In The Radio
A Song For The Deaf