Review Summary: Pass the Toro, please!
Far away from the sing-along jingles that occupy the breezy sunny beaches of the california coast, there is a desert. A desert like no other. The atmosphere is a vaccum of thin arid air, with dim clouds of smoke obscuring the horizon, which scorches the landscape of cracked frames of sand and sink holes filled with thick sludge. Only the most nasty of creatures live here, Gilla Monsters that grow to 8 feet, three headed rattle snakes with enough venom to kill 10000 men, and in the middle of this choatic landscape, a dusty car driving in the middle of nowhere. This is your baby, your car. You've traveled with her on many adventures, and you love her as if she was your own child. You look to see the dissapearing city behind you, only to realize it was already gone long ago. It becomes increasingly harder to see, as the vapor from your cigarrete masks the windows. As your other windows are lost to the killing cloud of ash, you have no choice but to peer at the fogged blood tinted horizon in front of you for light. Like a supernatural god of the desert, the red giant beckons you, and you follow, for control, for guidance, for what ever reason you use to justify this journey through hell.This may seem like any other desert to you. Make no mistake, this isn't any average desert. This is the foundation - the center stage of such badassery that is "Songs For The Deaf".
Almost every popular band has that one album. That one album that justifies the immense love and dedication given by their fanbase. That one album that allows critics to approve of their credentials as serious artisans. That one album that successfully breaks them into the mainstream, all while maintaining their integrity and respect as musicians. Though its debatable as to whether or not this is Queen of the Stone Age's best album, it is undoubtedly their most prolific, acting as the golden ticket to mainstream success while still bringing some heavy and vile hard rock riffage.
Right away, it's easy to see what's so lovable about this drunken balls to the walls work of art. Opener "(You May Think Im Not Worth A Dollar But I Feel Like A)Millionare" works on all levels. You take heed of the hilarious quirky naming scheme that characterizes the song. Inserting in the disc and turning the dial up to 11 - you can't help but laugh at the absurdity of the narrations, as the mockery of modern day repetition in the music industry brings out a small chuckle. Just as the real song finally starts - the explosion of sound hits you like a brick wall. It's extremely effective! The funny thing is, behind the rough exterior of punk fueled growls and screeches from Nick Oliveri and the crunchy gator riffs of Joshe's guitar, the track is brimming with character in a subtle, charismatic way. It's a pick-me-up in a world so utterly drab with downers and borefests, yet it doesn't take itself seriously either. As the vocalists intertwine, exclaiming "Gimme toro, give me some more," you can't help but think "I don't know what the *** toro is, but yes please!"
That's really whats so mezmerizing about Songs For The Deaf. Besides the heavy thick riffs and the various influences - ranging from stoner rock to punk - Joshe and the gang are able to play so convincingly and with so much pazzaz that their passionate playing adds weight to every track. It makes every hook, every thump of the bass, every blistering solo that much more authentic.
Songs For The Deaf also sparks a great balance between short affairs with infectious melodic grooves and long brutal hauls of disorenting madness. "No One Knows" is perhaps the most well known song in their entire career - and while it's a bit overrated in the grand scheme of things, it's guitar work has a habit of sticking to your ear like gold. By contrast, "First It Giveth" doesn't get enough love for it's nightmarish overencumbering riffs, which will leave feeling as though you're caught in the middle of a sea of ferious waves, each fighting one another. But by far the best of the "short and sweet" tracks is "Go With The Flow". Here, Joshe's guitar grazes the sky, leaving behind trail marks of solo melodies, as he delivers one of the catchiest chorus's to have ever been made by the California rockers.
However the best moments on Songs For The Deaf often come from the band's incredible ability to craft some true epics. Josh Hommes proves to be excellent at writing goliaths that are both thriling and daring while still atmospheric and moody. The four ones here - "A Song For The Dead", "The Sky Is Falling", "God Is On The Radio", and "A Song For The Deaf" are all the highlights of the record, and truly steal the spotlight. Though some tedium comes from the repetitive choruses, these tracks are otherwise executed perfectly. What's so amazing is that each of these songs fit the feel of the record so well - yet seem so thematically pleasing in their own separate ways. Hearing the individual concepts of each is like trying chocolates, each with their own flavor of filling inside. "Song For The Dead" sees the return of the over-the-top persona taken on by bassist Nick Oliveri, and features the haunting luminous background chants of the dead. "The Sky is Falling" unleashes an entourage of riffs with a surprisingly dreamy mid section and tense chorus, in which Joshes frightingly calm voice contrasts the enclosing darkness. "God Is On The Radio" has a quirky and playful style to it, both lyrically and musically. It even seems to recite Sabbath-esq riffs. But the best here is the tite track, Song for the Deaf, which has a feeling of anxiety to it. A disturbing hopelesness is present throughout the tormented and demonic track. It stands as so unique, even if it is the second to last here, with 12 songs preceeding it. These are, without a smidget of doubt, the most memorable of moments here.
That is really one of the best values of this album. One of its many keys to is success. It seems like just as things are about get stale, just as tracks and riffs begin to fade into one another a little too much, Joshe Homme pulls a new magic trick out of his sleeve. This is echoed in numerous ways. Not only is the variation between shorter, quickly impactful tracks and longer more subdued songs retain variety, but the guest appearance of vocalist Mark Laegan on tracks like "Hangin' Tree" as well as the reappearing vocals from Nick brings a fresh pallet to the sound scheme. Speaking of which, the performances on this album transform this already phenomenal act into practically a supergroup. Joshe proves to be one of the best guitarists in the game, Nick offers jamming bass lines and powerful, threatening vocal work. Ex-Nirvana drummer Dave Grohl, who is also the founder and frontman of Foo Fighters, drums on every track here, contributing his attributes as a stellar drummer to make for some of the most kick ass drumwork in rock. And again, aforementioned special guest Mark Laenagan is simply a great vocalist. This powerful set of musicians makes this even more awe inspiring.
With all this said and done, I feel it's time to take the hype all back to reality. While Songs For The Deaf is spectacular in many ways, it has issues in others.Queen of the Stone Age's first album was arguably the perfect representation of hard rock with heavy hitting riffs laddened with thick bass and nerve racking solos.It was serviceable to say the least, but the groups goals were much more linear then, set in a smaller less artistic framing. Rated R followed up with immense experimentation. Songs For The Deaf, by comparison, is more akin to the first album. Its only has one thing in mind : melting your brain through stimulating guitar work, groovy bass lines, and thunderous drumwork. It's so set in it's narrative musically - almost to a fault. There is some diversity to be had here, mostly in the execution of songs as previously showcased, but it just seems to never let up in comparison to its predeccesor. Don't get me wrong - having a slow love ballad in the middle of a senic drive through hell wouldn't fit, but more variety could have been incorporated appropriately.
And there really is no getting around it : Songs For The Deaf is simply too big for it's breaches. Perhaps Queens of the Stone Age were just a bit too ambitious in this respect, but this record is a 14 track giant that, at most, should be 12 - and that's only because "Gonna Leave You" is catchy as hell and short as well. But even then, this would work better as a 11 or possibly even 10 track release, as "Do It Again" has an annoying repetitive chorus, and along with "Another Love Song" is a complete waste of time.
Overall, the third studio album by Queens of the Stone Age is a monument to hard rock. Though it trips and stutters, the good here stands as some of the best rock in recent years, let alone their catalog. Highly Recommended!
Best Songs :
Song For The Deaf
God Is On The Radio
The Sky Is Falling
Go With The Flow
Song For The Dead
First It Giveth
Worst Tracks :
Do It Again
Another Love Song