Good news. Queens Of The Stone Age have invited we, the fanbase, to pick their set at Glastonbury. Well, ten songs of it, which means they might just squeeze in the entire first album as well. And from a catalogue of 50, available to vote through the Radio 1 website, so you’re probably not getting B-sides like ‘You’re So Vague’. But still, great huh?
So for a fun Wednesday game, let’s think up our fantasy setlist of favourite songs by the most fearsome rock band in America, possibly the world. I’ve cooked mine up below, with youtube videos and everything. We can have some fun with this. We can be as fanwanky and obscure as we like, but let’s not ignore the hits either. Let us stick with songs they’re viably going to play: I was desperate to include ‘Quick And To The Pointless’, except the vocal is screeched by the long-sacked Nick Oliveri. I was just as keen to include ‘I Was A Teenage Hand Model’ but couldn’t in all conscience include a song on the strength of its title alone.
Of course, none of this solves the clear and pressing problem of how we get the slot moved so it doesn’t clash with Beyonce, but that’s a problem for tomorrow. I reserve the right to change my mind completely by this evening, but for now, here are my ten favourite Queens songs.
Now what are yours?
The Lost Art Of Keeping A Secret
Because if we’re going to kick off with a hit, it’s this rather than the overplayed indie-disco standard No-One Knows. Here was the song that signalled Queens’ arrival to a wider world, and it remains a giant among rock songs, pristine in its precision yet utterly gruff, it captures a noxious blend of the soul, intrigue and sensuality that make this band so special in three-and-a-half devilishly captivating minutes.
Go With The Flow
And ergo, here is the hit from ‘Songs For The Deaf’ that you really want to be hearing, a rip-roaring hymn to the road that’s all expansive screeches, pummelling macho riffs and a universal message that is in fact pretty much identical to “I’m on the right track baby I was born this way.”
I Never Came
The finest single they never released, this cut from ‘Lullabies To Paralyse’ sees Josh in swooning falsetto mode as delicate ascending/descending guitars etch out real heartbreak. I like to think it’s about the displacement of the heart told through elegant imagery of spatial proximity, rather than simply not being able to get it up. But I don’t know for sure.
First It Giveth
The moment where ‘Songs For The Deaf’s back breaks and it careers full-throttle into the badass, Pagan, festival of filth that is to follow. This repeats their common trick of hiding a simple, soulful melody within a torrent of machine-gun guitar, but they’ve rarely pulled off that trick with more grace.
You Can’t Quit Me, Baby
Nestled in the middle of the debut, is this low-slung, hypnotic slow-jam of a twisted love song (“You’re solid gold, I’ll see you in hell.”). While the rest of the album keeps it foot on the pedal for the most part, this slow-burning, seductive jam is odd enough to start with, and that’s before it appears to malfunction and burn itself out with a repeated solo that just gets faster and faster and faster.
Better Living Through Chemistry
And again, the alternative narc anthem from ‘Rated R’ is a weirder, more compelling proposition, especially by the time we get to the traditionally-wobbly Sunday-night-at-Glasto. This is a sprawling occult snakedance to get you ‘in the zone’ more effectively than the repeated naming of substances ever could.
Burn The Witch
There would be an easy toss-up between this and ‘Little Sister’ for the single off of ‘Lullabies To Paralyse’, but the stomping jam does the not-exactly easy job of sounding incredibly sexy while going bang in the night.
Another Love Song
Ann oddity in that it sounds more like something from a Nuggets compilation than anything else by Queens Of The Stone Age, but nestled towards the back of ‘Songs For The Deaf’ is this weirdo garage jam that remains one of the most compelling pop moments they’ve ever come up with.
From the underloved ‘Era Vulgaris’, this sees the “sad, drunk robots” Josh is so fond of saying populate the debut pumped up to fully-paralytic dreadnoughts of soulful robo-rock. I only ever heard them do it live once, but I needed a lie down afterwards.
A Song For The Dead
The song with which law decrees all QOTSA live sets much end with forever and I’m not going to argue with that, for reasons bigger than simply that Josh is taller than me. If this band have a tour de force then this is it, bringing together all the disparate elements of smooth and simple melody, weapons-grade riffing, a session musician on kitchen sink, a hearty dose of surrealism and, yes, drunk, maudlin robots falling about the place. Fearsome, girlishly manful, and still utterly brilliant.