Desert Sessions
Volumes 11 and 12


4.0
excellent

Review

by Simon STAFF
October 25th, 2019 | 35 replies


Release Date: 10/25/2019 | Tracklist

Review Summary: 'Volumes 11 & 12' is a lean, mean rocking machine.

The Desert Sessions. For some, it’s a name that will hold absolutely no meaning or worth, and considering how long the project has been out of commission, it’s completely understandable why. The last time we saw The Desert Sessions active was way back in 2003 – that was sixteen years ago, and a lengthy hiatus to say the least. But with the way this year has pieced itself together so far, it seems harmonious – poetic even – that Homme would decide to dust off this labour of love now. The elephant in the room is obvious; why should anyone give half a damn about a two-bit collaborative project from nearly two decades ago? And for me, it’s a relatively easy concern to answer: it’s simply because of the project’s unique ethics – its mantra. Assemble an eclectic team of musicians, invite them out into the middle of the desert to jam with like-minded and – more intentionally speaking – less like-minded people just to see what happens. Recent interviews with Josh Homme have revealed that the very core of The Desert Sessions is as spiritual and psychological as it is experimental; you are out in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by other artists that have a very different way of doing things. It’s designed to pull the artist out of his/her comfort zone – a calculated act made to question everything about their person, right down to asking themselves why they even make music in the first place. As such, the results of The Desert Sessions, while sonically distinct to a certain extent (i.e., Josh’s vocal and guitar contributions work as stabilising pillars of familiarity), brings a relatively formless framework that has shown some legitimately bizarre and brilliant moments from the project’s initial six-year stint of recording.

Another alluring quality is that, though Josh Homme manipulates the strings behind the scenes, it’s a faceless project that lets the music breath and speak freely. The funny thing is, even if you have never heard of The Desert Sessions before, you’ll have heard some of the results from it if you’ve followed QOTSA in some capacity. Some of the jams from these sessions have eventually turned into Queens of the Stone Age songs before, ala “Avon”, “Make it Wit Chu” and “Hangin' Tree”, proving to be a point of reference that extends beyond being just another side-project. Vol.11 & 12 brings its most diverse batch of artists to date, and tells its tale in the most effective and succinct way possible. Billy F. Gibbons of ZZ Top fame opens the album up in stellar fashion; a gentle easing of Billy’s soft croons over 90s-infused industrial electronics, warming you up before busting out with sporadic Queens-y guitar licks and a pumping rhythm section. The album doubles down on the QOTSA influences for “Noses in Roses, Forever”, a track that brings a lot of latter-day Queens to the table, with its bustling bass grooves and scintillating solos. For those gasps of disappointment that Vol.11 & 12 may lack imagination, fear not, it has a few surprises lined up. It should also be noted that “Noses in Roses, Forever” does indeed sit close to Homme’s day job, but then it also thinks outside of the box enough to make more daring actions on what your typical QOTSA song would offer; a track which self-indulges and delivers plenty of twists and turns along the way.

I’d also like to highlight that from any song past “Noses in Roses, Forever”, any preconceptions made about this being QOTSA-lite with guests, they will be surprised by the end of the record. This is, largely, a psychedelic journey, filled with weird little moments that add colour to the canvas. The folk-rock epic “If You Run” is a more conventional song to enjoy, the scathing punker “Crucifire” should keep heavy rock fans amused, and the haunting ballad “Easier Said Than Done” works as a grand conclusion for the album, but if nothing else, these numbers function more as the bricks of Vol.11 & 12; anything in between works as the eccentric and colourful mortar. The exotic instrumentation on “Far East For the Trees”, which, as the name suggests, bases itself on Eastern styles of music, with lavish underlays and a penchant for the psychedelics. Then there’s the Zappa-esque “Chic Tweetz”, which sounds like the session musicians really threw the wackiest ideas they had at the song and had a load of fun playing it to boot. While Jake Shears’ excellently sung “Something You Can’t See” has an odour of Tame Impala at the heart of it – a rock tune filled to the brim with bright, punchy instrumentals and infectious melodies.

There’s little to complain about here, honestly. I think the only flaws I have with Vol.11 & 12 fall on the things it doesn’t utilise to the fullest. Les Claypool for instance might as well have not bothered contributing to the album, as he isn’t present vocally, nor does his bass playing stand up like it normally does. With the exception of the double bass on “Far East For the Trees” – which I assume is Les’ playing, as it has that distinct slide of his – it’s hard to tell where he really put his stamp on the album. He’s just so underutilised it seems like a massive shame, and a quality the album could have greatly benefited from had he brought more to the table. But, of course, that’s half of The Desert Sessions’ point, isn’t it? To subvert a lot of your expectations and create a fresh sound with interesting people. The important takeaway from this is that it is a really fun record to listen to. It’s short, it’s tightly written, and it will cater to a broad demographic of listeners, and there’s not much more you can ask for from that, is there?

FORMAT//EDITIONS: DIGITAL/̶/̶C̶D̶/̶/̶V̶I̶N̶Y̶L̶/̶/̶V̶A̶R̶I̶O̶U̶S̶ ̶B̶U̶N̶D̶L̶E̶S̶

PACKAGING: N/A

SPECIAL EDITION BONUSES: N/A

ALBUM STREAM//PURCHASE: https://store.qotsa.com/collections/desert-sessions-volumes-11-12



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user ratings (38)
3.8
excellent

Comments:Add a Comment 
Slex
Contributing Reviewer
October 25th 2019


8731 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Excited to jam this

Digging: FKA Twigs - Magdalene

DrGonzo1937
Staff Reviewer
October 25th 2019


15797 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

it's great

Digging: Desert Sessions - Volumes 11 and 12

InFlamesWeThrash666
October 25th 2019


9287 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

will czech

Digging: Sarke - Gastwerso

br4dl3yb34r
October 25th 2019


223 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Thanks for putting this on my radar. Haven't listened to any of these in years.

neekafat
Contributing Reviewer
October 25th 2019


17110 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Soooo pumped

ignorethefashion
October 25th 2019


99 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Nice review. This was highly anticipated for me, and it mostly delivered.

Chic Tweetz is one of the most hilarious and absurd things I've heard in a while. I read an article where Homme claims the vocals were laid down by this Finnish dude who just kind of appeared at one of the sessions. No one knew him, but he stuck around because everyone assumed he was someone's guest. I'm not sure if I believe that, or if it was Homme or one of the other guests musicians doing a character. Either way it cracks me up.

Alternate summary suggestion: "I said I would wax all your cracks"

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wwf
October 25th 2019


6490 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Oh man between this and the new Norma Jean and Kanye West



Finally some good fucking food

Digging: Faye Webster - Atlanta Millionaires Club

DopeFiend
October 25th 2019


222 Comments


If You Run is such a jam

dtrichard
October 26th 2019


35 Comments


what the f is this for real

neekafat
Contributing Reviewer
October 26th 2019


17110 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

This is fucking stupendous, I'm floored by this so far

DrGonzo1937
Staff Reviewer
October 26th 2019


15797 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

"Chic Tweetz is one of the most hilarious and absurd things I've heard in a while. I read an article where Homme claims the vocals were laid down by this Finnish dude who just kind of appeared at one of the sessions. No one knew him, but he stuck around because everyone assumed he was someone's guest."



I want this to be true

WhiteNoise
October 26th 2019


3664 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Chic Tweetz might be the greatest song ever recorded and you can’t prove otherwise.



Seriously though, this album gives me Rated R/Era Vulgaris vibes and is way more fun than it has any right to be.

grannypantys
October 26th 2019


2145 Comments


records sold out quick

cool to hear Claypool on this

SmashIsTheWay94
October 26th 2019


1433 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

damn this rules

neekafat
Contributing Reviewer
October 26th 2019


17110 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

This opener oh my goooodddddddd

conesmoke
October 27th 2019


6074 Comments


Cool review. Will check today

bobbydylan
October 27th 2019


17 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

This album fuckin' rules and nothing else needs to be said.

Digging: Royal Jelly - Miel De Lavende

neekafat
Contributing Reviewer
October 27th 2019


17110 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

[2] I'mma throw a 4.5 at this too I think

botulist
October 27th 2019


134 Comments


Queens camp is firmly out of ideas by now, it seems.

Digging: Y. Bhekhirst - Hot in the Airport

Intothepit
October 27th 2019


3780 Comments


I just remember watching Anthony Bourdain hang out, eat, and watch Homme and co. fuck around in their studio out there. That was one of my all time favorite episodes of No Reservations. Not that it has anything to do with this, but it just makes me wanna check this out even more



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