To my ears, The Queens of the Stone Age came out of nowhere, hitting hard with the brilliant named “Feel Good Hit of the Summer”, a pulverising hymn to the group’s favourite substances that simply wiped the floor with their peers.
The single opens the album Rated “R”, a masterful fusion of punk, metal, blues and demolition dance rhythms that never lets the listener settle, throwing one curve ball after another.
Feel good Hit of the Summer starts with a brutal bass riff, before launching into the appropriately addictive adrenalin driven chant of “Nicotine, valium, vicodin, marijuana, ecstasy and alcohol oooh !”.
The song is a wonderful distillation of pent up energy and excitement, and boasts a fantastic guitar solo that squeezes 40 years of metal into a twenty second solo before the bass returns to boss the song on through to its exhilarating climax.
The song slips seamlessly into a more traditional rock song, The Lost Art of Keeping a Secret which is lifted by an anthemic chorus, and main man Josh Homme’s seductive stoner vocals.
Track 3, Leg of Lamb, marks another change of tack, with unusual rhythmic patterns and great psychedelic guitar rounding off as good an opening triumvirate of songs as you’ll find anywhere. As with many songs on the album, this one plays with your expectations, making you wait for a chorus that turns out to be more understated than the verse.
Queens of the Stone Age were Josh Homme’s brainchild, the ex-guitarist of cult band Kyuss deciding to free himself from the rigid self imposed constraints of Stoner rock to create a group with a more varied style. His first master stroke was inviting larger than life Dwarf bassist Nick Oliveri on board, making for a wonderfully inflammable double front man dynamic when playing live. His second inspired move was incorporating Krautrock metronomic drum beats into The Queen’s sound, giving an unmistakably repetitive robotic groove the their best songs. This was the band’s second album, and though the follow up Song for the Deaf contained some fantastic songs, and the hard hitting drumming of Dave Grohl, this to my mind is their masterpiece, taking a disparate mix of influences to produce a wonderfully idiosyncratic yet cohesive beast of a rock record.
The rest of the album is full of less celebrated gems. The hand claps, girly chants and Nick Oliveri’s psychotic delivery make punker Quick and to the Pointless an irresistible listen.
Future single Monster in my Parasol,is driven by wonderful dynamics, ratcheting all the way through the gears to a fantastically surreal and melodic chorus (that is matched by an equally out there video).
In the 16 long years since the release of this album, Josh Homme has been through it all: huge acclaim for his even harder hitting Songs for the Deaf album, bust ups with volatile bandmate Nick Oliveri and a disappointing fifth album in Era Vulgaris, followed by a triumphant return first with supergroup Them Crooked Vultures, then as an influential producer of the Arctic Monkeys and finally a number one album in Clockwork, that while more of a mainstream rock album, even incorporating and Elton John style piano ballad, still maintained enough of the distinctive original magic to keep the faithful on board. Throw in his excellent collaborative work as producer/guitarist and co-writer on Iggy Pop’s brooding Post Pop Depression and the legendary status of the Ginger Elvis is well and truly deserved. Most surprising of all, he remains a charmingly articulate fan of music, as shown by his regular DJ forays on BBC’s 6 music.
So sit back and enjoy an alternative rock album to rank alongside The White Stripes Elephant and The Strokes This is it as one of the finest of the decade.