Queens of the Stone Age
The Queens of the Stone Age would like you to label them. They are almost daring you, poking you in the chest and taunting. They want you to try to slap a descriptive on them. They are aching for someone to call them metal or stoner rock or grunge, just to prove that someone wrong.
The band, which rose in Seattle from the ashes of the uber-heavy California band Kyuss, has developed a hard-rock sound that is one part guitar sludge blasted from the nearest Camaro and one part crafty pop monster. Defiant and yet embraceable, challenging and accessible, the Queens' latest album, R (as in the film rating), acknowledges the band's heavy-metal past while experimenting outside the strictures of the genre. For what might be the first time in music history, Black Sabbath-style guitar riffs are combined with female background singers, horns and hand-clap percussion. The result is not the disconcerting mishmash of stylistic tricks that might be expected, but a beguiling next-step in the evolution of popular music.
This is a record that chooses not to wallow in the glory days of rock, when guitars ruled the airwaves. Instead, it plays like a revolution, a response to naysayers who have pronounced rock music dead. Loud and brash and original, it serves to remind and restate the kind of emotional response that rock music - real rock music - is capable of inspiring.
Standouts among the 11 tracks are The Lost Art of Keeping a Secret, which combines Queens founder Joshua Homme's distinctive fuzz-tone guitar, achingly sweet falsetto vocals and an almost Beatle-esque arrangement, and the neo-grunge In the Fade, featuring ex-Screaming Tree Mark Lanegan. The song walks a tricky tightrope, recalling the glory days of Seattle rock while also incorporating dynamic guitar that keeps it from sounding dated.
In an age when the fine art of air guitar has been forgotten, and amplified angst is no longer viable in the musical marketplace, R represents something of a rarity, a rock record that bucks the odds and sounds fresh and vital. It's an album that, despite its rock roots, sounds new.
Play this one loud. It deserves it.
Reach Steven Uhles at (706) 823-3626 or firstname.lastname@example.org.