Initial thoughts on Queens of the Stone Age’s ‘Villains’

Disclaimer: Queens of the Stone Age are my favourite band. This is a personal and informal write-up of my initial thoughts after hearing the new record.


FEET DON’T FAIL ME

Straight off the bat, Queens give us an instant classic. This one grooves. Hard. After a lengthy build-up spooky sounds and retro synth, the main refrain enters. It is so jerky, so jolty, I knew I’d love it ever since I heard the first teaser. Josh’s lyrics are almost autobiographical, a highly personal side we haven’t seen from him before.


THE WAY YOU USED TO DO

Initial skepticism for the lead single when it released back in June has definitely been put aside after repeat listens. Josh gives one of his finest vocal performances and again his seasoned wordplay is on show here. Sonically, the fuzzed-out jangly guitars keep the track dynamic. Could the final minute be trimmed off? Probably so. It doesn’t possess enough evolution to run for so long with little change. A minor peeve.


DOMESTICATED ANIMALS

A cool cut for sure. Could be a grower. A simple three-chord groove interchanges with a noodly guitar lick. Sounds very Bowie. Some welcome screams from Mikey Shoes in the outro, finished with some gorgeous orchestration.


FORTRESS

Totally floored by the intro. Sounds like Ennio Morricone and John Carpenter had glorious intercourse. Seen a lot of dislike for this track already, mainly down to Josh’s uninspired lyrics and that it doesn’t sound a lot like the Queens we know. I really like it. Fantastic incorporation of synth again. Just a great feel-good groove. I reckon this will grow exponentially on initial naysayers.


HEAD LIKE A HAUNTED HOUSE

Wow. A royal psychobilly freakout. The intro, in fact, the whole track is nuts. Mikey Shoes and Jon Theodore really shine here. It’s very Eagles of Death Metal, particularly in the second half.  Love the return to the main groove in the outro. The pace just doesn’t let up. Will become a staple for live sets no doubt.


UN-REBORN AGAIN

Another significant incorporation of Carpenter-esque synth. It doesn’t feel tacked on for the sake of innovating or evolving style, it fits really, really well. Really dig the chorus. Nice layering and use of classical instrumentation later on in the track. Like TWYUTD, it could do with being a little shorter.


HIDEAWAY

Another cut that sounds very Bowie. Possibly my least favourite on the record, but I still like it. Lots going on in the mix, and we get some nice Homme falsetto on this one.


THE EVIL HAS LANDED

Strong Led Zeppelin and Them Crooked Vultures vibes. Very guitar-centric as it navigates through several stages of dynamic grooves and licks. Could be a little meatier in the mix, which I’m sure will be taken care of in live performances. A lot of people saying this is the highlight of the record, I somewhat disagree. It’s good, there’s just something about it that feels too “samey”. I prefer the more innovative cuts that came before it. The outro does kick ass, though.


VILLAINS OF CIRCUMSTANCE

As a big fan of the original acoustic version, this version is a nice evolution. Beautiful lyricism, which is a combination of previous versions, with some tweaks. The chorus sections are very positive – I’m not convinced they sit well with regards to the verse instrumentation. Might be just because I was attached to the sombre, acoustic nature in its original form. The bridge/outro does work well though as it builds towards a euphoric crescendo with all instrumentation in the mix.


OVERALL THOUGHTS

Well, Queens have done it again – totally reinvented themselves. I couldn’t name an album that this sounds like the most. It feels like a culmination of Lullabies, Era & …LC. It’s definitely their most accessible and commercially sounding record to date, which its predecessor …LC was too. It’s also the first record with a consistent lineup, with no guest appearances in sight. Mark Ronson’s influence is clear and it holds up well, whilst a few cuts could have been bolstered in the mix.

Josh Homme has always been the creative driving force of the songwriting, as it was his band from the start, but this record feels more like a solo album than ever (he even appears on the artwork). Will take dozens more listens (and probably several years) to determine where this album stands in their discography…

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