Desert Sessions : Volumes 7&8

Josh Homme and pals make rock music in the desert

Whenever Josh Homme of Queens Of The Stone Agegets a chance, he heads out to a studio near Joshua Tree in the middle of the Californian desert with some mates, and jams for hours. The results are edited and released as the Desert Sessions. So far, so much stoner rock.

But Josh Homme is an evolutionary leap ahead of most stoner rockers (that’s why he quit pre-QOTSAe outfit Kyuss), so the Desert Sessions are never merely endless jamathons. They are concise blasts of the often silly and sometimes nasty stuff that he wouldn’t include on QOTSA releases (unless, as with ‘Avon’ and ‘Monster In The Parasol’ on Volumes 3 and 4, they’re demos

of future QOTSA material).

‘7 & 8’ are the first volumes to be released on Homme’s own Rekords Rekords label, and they’re also the weirdest and best. This is as close to the goth wind as it’s possible to sail without carving a pentangle into your forehead, but a combination of humour and heavy menace keeps it just the right side of doom.

Nevertheless, they’ve captured a dark, queasy, almost medieval mood out there in the San Bernardino Valley, and it weaves its way narcotically throughout the album. It spins its best spooky magic on a handful of the 13 tracks: on ‘Don’t Drink Poison’, which sounds like some long-lost religious ritual; on the bad smack boogie of ‘Hanging Tree’, featuring Mark Lanegan; on the OD blues of ‘Making A Cross’; and, most spectacularly, on ‘Nenada’, where ancient Hebrew meets Motorhead.

There are some good jokes, too. The eerie spoken-word sauce of ‘Interpretive Reading’ could figure on Blue Jam and ‘Covousier”s lurching electro fear wouldn’t disgrace the new Aphex Twin album ([I]”I really miss you”[/I], runs the chorus, [I]”since I killed you”[/I]). As for ‘Piano Bench Breaks’… well, slapstick always scores.

In the great goth canyon there can be few records as darkly heavy or as stupidly funny as this. Roll on the next Queens album.

Ted Kessler