Queens of the Stone Age teamed up with producer Mark Ronson for their seventh studio album, ‘Villains’. Although this news may not have been welcome initially by the band’s long-time fans (Ronson has previously worked with Adele and Amy Winehouse), the collaboration proved to be fruitful, having resulted in what could easily be the group’s best record yet, and one of the greatest rock LP’s released so far this year.
It could have been anticipated otherwise due to Ronson’s presence, but ‘Villains’ doesn’t have a more popular sound than 2013’s ‘…Like Clockwork’. Most of the new tracks might be a little more danceable, but they are still in keeping with the musical style established by Queens of the Stone Age years ago. Indeed, they are reminiscent of the heavier feel of 2007’s ‘Era Vulgaris’, without the extreme hard rock elements of 2002’s ‘Songs for the Deaf’.
Once again, sole constant member and main songwriter Josh Homme has shown that it’s possible to flirt with the mainstream and still maintain a dark, alternative sound. ‘Villains’ owes a lot to Deep Purple and David Bowie – Homme often sounds very much like a late 70s, early 80s Bowie, and even Troy Van Leeuwen’s guitar playing reinforces this mood. Michael Shuman’s bass lines have more strength and character than ever before, but there are also the usual synthesizers, which ensure a contemporary feel.
The album’s first single, ‘The Way You Used to Do’, is heavily influenced by Homme’s collaboration with Iggy Pop (he co-wrote and produced Pop’s 2016 album ‘Post Pop Depression’). It’s an upbeat bluesy-funky-rockabilly track that’s hard to forget. The second single, ‘The Devil Has Landed’, is a homage to 70s rock with a gloomy twist.
A definite highlight is ‘Domesticated Animals’, which could have been written by the Doors. The catchy but monotonous riffs provide a perfectly doomy backdrop for the dystopian lyrics: “You get right up, sit back down / A revolution is one spin ’round”, and at the end: “Get right up, kneel and bow / Shrunken heads parade through town / Tears of gold, drink then drown / Dizzy, dizzy, dizzy, we all fall down”. ‘Villains of Circumstance’ is a monumental and haunting song that builds up the momentum gradually and then tears it all down in a superb composition channelling the best of progressive rock.
Overall, ‘Villains’ is an outstanding record. At times, it even seems too good to have been made in 2017, and it’s certain to be remembered by fans of alternative rock for a long time.
Other releases this week include ‘Seekers and Finders’ by Gypsy punks Gogol Bordello, ‘A Deeper Understanding’ by the indie rock band War on Drugs, ‘Orc’ by garage rockers Oh Sees, ‘Expect the Best’ by indie duo Widowspeak, ‘Wolf Lie Down’ by the psychedelic group the Fresh and Onlys, ‘Häxan’ by Swedish progressive rock band Dungen and ‘Trash Generator’ by the experimental group Tera Melos.