Review Summary: Villains to the fans, or pushing the envelope?
Though there is the odd polarizing opinion on some of QOTSA’s albums, by and large they’ve got a very strong, universally agreed, catalogue which taps into many different styles of rock music. But if I was to really point out a highlight from the band, it’d be 2013’s …Like Clockwork
; a real milestone record and one that contained some of the groups darkest moments, both sonically and lyrically. At a time where Homme was going through some trials and tribulations, there was a level of suffering which poured into the record and became a core ingredient for the LP, one which made the album stand out so much. So, after a fruitful success with …Like Clockwork
, the tension building up to this album was on the fringe of rupturing; a little bit of worry, given the band’s open description of it being “more upbeat”, coupled with its producer, one, Mark Ronson, better known for producing massive pop hits with Robbie Williams, Adele and Lady Gaga, to name but a few. And given the singles that have dropped, it was hard to determine where Villains
was going to end up on the sonic spectrum.
isn’t the train-wreck many were pinning it as being. Though it has a couple of dips in quality, it is still a very enjoyable album. Album opener “Feet Don’t Fail Me now” is up there with “Keep Your Eyes Peeled” as the best song opener to an album, their entire career; starting off as a crescendo building epic, before smashing into a sound bathing in Led Zeppelin groove, presented with a full-of-life sound that still has Queens at the heart of it all. It delivers as a great song with all the hallmarks the band have used in the past, but gives its listener a taster of what’s to come: a cheeky wink and a cool swagger. Villains
has a heavy focus on punchy grooves – more so than ever before – the bass is very prominent throughout, using an arsenal of slides and staccato notes to make songs bouncy and effective, it’s impossible to sit still for long; while guitars focus on painting moody atmospherics. “Domesticated Animals” proves the former statement, “Fortress” backs up the latter, with its dark and grandiose introduction, teaming up with Homme’s melancholic vocal performance. It’s an album that blends the band’s moody passages with a new kind of pop style, and for the most part it works.
Other highlights come from “The Evil Has Landed”, similar to “Feet Don’t Fail Me Now”, for its Zeppelin-like framework and fuzzy guitars, while the album closer, “Villains of Circumstance”, finishes the album off in a low-tempo fashion: brooding and unsettling, with a touch of experimentation, this track builds with the intension of releasing a catharsis found in some great melodies and ending with an energetic explosion; it’s a great way to end this 9-track LP. The problems lie in the mid-section of the album, which struggle to maintain a high-level of interest: “Head Like A Haunted House” showcases a high-octane, punk energy, but is ultimately dull, while “Un-Reborn Again” and “Hideaway” lack a great deal of anything to make even a 1/3 of the songs interesting. However, despite these tracks and the initial worry before release, Villains
is far from a failure, it has an awesome emphasis on melody and groove, and these qualities see the album far. Its production works well and by the end of it you’ll definitely want to give it another go.
SPECIAL EDITION: Various vinyl variants and cover alternatives.