Songs for the Deaf, by Queens of the Stone Age
Suggested by Mike Wootton
A mere three albums ago, I poured scorn on Kyuss. Rightly so, I feel. They were rubbish.
Originally, that band were called Son of Kyuss. Queens of the Stone Age are the band that sprang from Kyuss’s timely demise, making them, in a very real sense, the Sons of Son of Kyuss. Or The Grandsons of Kyuss.
Back when Queens of the Stone Age were relevant, I had a friend who liked them a great deal. Sadly, I can’t remember which friend that was, as some personal anecdotes would gently pad this rambling intro. But I do recall that he or she asked me to give them a listen. I said I would, and claimed I had, but in fact I did not.
So, Songs For the Death promises to be Kyuss-style fuzzy guitars and echoing drums, likely peppered with indistinct vocals and terrible lyrics. How positively thrilling. I suppose I shouldn’t grumble. It’s not ambient, Reggae or S Club bloody Seven.
The album starts with a faux Radio Station jingle, a motif that’s present throughout this loose Concept album. That’s right… Concept album. Another nail in this coffin, methinks. Happily, as I’ve played Grand Theft Auto V, I’m down with this kitsch. The first track, You Think I Ain’t Worth A Dollar, But I Feel Like A Millionaire brings us enough of a growl to give me pause, but that soon gives way to a more driving and direct track than anything Kyuss could muster. Their second track No One Knows is their biggest hit to date, and is my standout song on the album. With a jarring guitar and bouncing drumline, it’s a quirky rock-pop number not without style.
One of my gripes about Kyuss was that their vocal was mixed almost apologetically into each track, consumed by the grunge and bluster of the overproduced guitar. Thankfully, there’s a clearer hand at this album’s tiller, and the vocal is given equal billing. This is definitely to the album’s benefit, as the somewhat reedy and rtremulous delivery in First it Giveth becomes something dreamier and cerebral than it could ever have been in the hands of the band’s parental artistes.
There’s a lot of strength on Songs For The Deaf. It doesn’t help that the album is underscored by a driven and diabolical Dave Grohl performance that mirrors whatever he’d place as his career highlight performance. Josh Homme’s vocal has a confidence that was never apparent from the Kyuss vocalist, which makes me wonder why Homme only supplied the backing in that band. And while there’s still a certain sludginess to the guitar sound, especially in God Is On The Radio and The Sky is Fallin’, the riffs are punchy enough to manhandle the listener. Like a masseuse, I must add, not like a bouncer.
Overall, I was happily impressed with Queens of the Stone Age. Songs For The Deaf scores 7/10, for all the right reasons. It’s not my favourite rock-grunge sound, but it’ll do in a pinch.