Review Summary: And it only gets better from here.
With nearly every album I hear, I have a strong memory of the first time I listened to it. Queens of the Stone Age
is an easy once, since it was the first album I listened to when I started taking music seriously. Even now, the opening twang of "Regular John" instantly transports me to that frigid high school school bus, the heavy snow blanketing the world clashing harshly with the scorching heat of the desert pumping through my earbuds.
The album in itself blew me away, and still does. While not my favorite Queens album, it's startling in its pure heaviness. This isn't metal, but its monolithic in the size of its sound. There is a uniqueness to the record that's hard to put into words, its almost impossible to replicate or describe the oxymoron of the entire work. The relentless chug is both comforting and alarming; the sound, personal yet all-encompassing. Perhaps most importantly is singer/guitarist Josh Homme's virgin voice, which manages to be both gentle and commanding.
Now that I've listened to nearly all of the music Homme has graced this Earth with, the album as a whole has a deep amount of context, all of which make it even more astounding. The album in many ways serves as a continuation of Kyuss
's (his previous band that he founded at age 14) ...And the Circus Leaves Town
, exhibiting more of the direct music of that album rather than the expansive progressive nature of some of their earlier works. At the same time this new band, containing only Homme and drummer Alfredo Hernandez (also briefly from Kyuss), takes risks that they never would have taken before, stretching single riffs throughout an entire song's length --and then some-- on fantastic songs like "Walkin' on the Sidewalk." In many ways, this album highlights serves as the real end of Kyuss as much as the beginning of Queens of the Stone Age. It has the same heavy-desert feel, yet the scope of the sound seems much larger.
The album however, is not perfect. Songs like "You Would Know" and "How to Handle a Rope" take the repetition a little too far without giving enough uniqueness to make the songs stand out much from the rest of the better brooding rockers, aside from some poppier melodies which are shared with "If Only," a much better track. These cuts also show the limitations of Homme's voice. But considering the fact that this is the first time he's ever sung lead vocals (an ambitious decision, for sure), he handles the role with more than a glimmer of the power he'll posses on later releases.
On the other hand, there's "Mexicola." I don't think I ever can get sick of this song. With incredible percussion and a mammoth riff the size of the entire Mojave, the song blows away anything that came before it. An entire world is formed within these five minutes, one of colossal sandstorms, gorgeous babes, and muscle cars. It's no wonder that the moment I saw the "Mad Max: Fury Road" trailer I thought of this song.
"Mexicola" kicks of the second half of the album, which is considerably better than the first. With the playful instrumental "Hispanic Impressions," the trancelike slow-burn of "You Can't Quit Me Baby," and the harsh-yet-catchy melodies of "Give the Mule What He Wants." All of these burn out into the hungover tune "I Was a Teenage Hand Model." Played with the hazy atmosphere of a gas station bathroom, pianos chime emptily in the background as background singers chirp and hum in self-depricating pity. Eventually it fades out into the warbling hum of some sort of alien spacecraft and as it gets increasingly annoying, Nick Oliveri gives Josh Homme a call to let him know he'll be on the next album.
The album would still be great even as just a collection of the rockin' songs it contains, but the beauty of Queens of the Stone Age
is that it's so much more than the sum of those parts. Each song fits into the next like a puzzle piece, each inhabiting the same gargantuan desert planet. It's one of seduction, style, and danger, but boy do I love taking a visit there everytime I put that CD in the tray. At the same time I'm transported back to that icy bus ride, excited not by the day ahead but at the prospect of a band like this having another 5 albums to listen to after I completed this one.
And trust me, Junior-year me. It only gets better from here.
Queens of the Stone Age: 8.5
Regular John: 8
If Only: 8.5
Walkin' on the Sidewalks: 8.5
You Would Know: 7.5
[The Bronze]: 8
How to Handle a Rope: 7.5
Hispanic Impressions: 8.5
You Can't Quit Me Baby: 8.5
[These Aren't the Droids You're Looking For]: 8.5
Give the Mule What He Wants: 8.5
[Spiders and Vinegaroons]: 9
I Was A Teenage Hand Model: 8.5
P.S. I highly recommend the deluxe edition, the three tracks are all great, especially the two instrumental tracks. Everything is reordered in a way so as not to disrupt the flow of the album, and "Spiders and Vingegaroons" is amazing. Those tracks are in brackets above.