London Camden Underworld

A noise that might well be what Rock 'N' Roll has been waiting for...

[I]In-s-s-s-s-s-aaane[/I]. Naked man with satanic beard and worrying stare playing bass and the fool. Fully-clothed man with Elvis sneer, TV eyes and wasted youth playing fast, loose and downright evil. Double devils thrown by every sweat-slathered stoner-rock aficionado in the joint. And hovering just a greasy hair’s-breadth above the mayhem, a noise that might well be What Rock’N’Roll Has Been Waiting For. [a]Queens Of The Stone Age[/a], we presume. But Christ, not half as much as they do…

“Nicotine, Valium, Vicodin marijuana, Ecstasy and alcohol”, snarls singer-stroke-axe-hero Josh Homme even before he’s said hello. The guitar screeches to a halt like a drag racer on oil, spins on its wheels. “C-c-c-c-cocaine”. Crash. This is ‘Feel Good Hit Of The Summer’, and it’s the sound of [a]Queens Of The Stone Age[/a] laying their cards, morals and probably contents of their pockets on the table. So you’d probably need to catch Big Bird on his day off in Sesame Street’s seedier environs to find another song so stupidly simplistic – so what? Never mind that they have the nonchalance to start their set with it, or that the lifestyle, should you be looking for one, comes attached like a monster truck trailer – it just sounds, oh, way cool.

As a term, stoner-rock sounds slightly quaint – something that happens in the summer vacation while the straight world discusses Watergate and oil prices over a 7Up. Truth is, QOTSA make a huge splash in the genre pool, a jolt of modernist electricity through an increasingly greenish, wormy artform. When you consider what’s bolting rock together at the moment – the petulant want-a-puppy-and-girlfriend apocalypse of Korn, the sheet-over-head trick-or-treating of Slipknot, Limp Bizkit‘s resistible corporate attitude – this is a band jumping with autonomous life.

They have the history, Homme‘s Kyuss connections giving them patriarchal potency and legend to spare. They have the look – with killer snarl and thousand yard stare, Homme looks like a defective model from the Presley House Of Wax awaiting meltdown, the griddle-scarred short-order cook with an alien implant in his head, while bassist and former Dwarf Nick Oliveri plays the house freak with forked beard and vein-straining energy. And of course – and this swings it like a wrecking ball – they have the sound.

For all the pharmaceutical bluster, the essential heaviness, [a]Queens Of The Stone Age[/a] are nowhere near as remedially rockist as you might suspect. These aren’t just lunk-headed boys burning holes in the furniture as they doze off during [I]Planet Of The Apes[/I] – this is adult stuff, touched with depth and quality and subtlety and other words that’ll probably have them firestarting in fields just to make up for it. Sure, the fact that Homme can introduce a song with, “This is about two weeks in a Mexican jail,” provides enough exotically vicarious thrills to send you through the week with desert sand in your hair.

Sure, they have all the medical-grade adrenalin you could desire. Yet Homme‘s hands flicker over increasingly outlandish mantras, and at moments, they’re positively soulful. ‘The Lost Art Of Keeping A Secret’, bass hammering like a sunstroke headache, is a bleached-out paranoia blues, while the frenetic falsetto panic of ‘Monsters In The Parasol’ is the neurosis with the mostest. Of course, by the time Oliveri appears naked for a heat-sensitive encore of ‘Eccentric Man’, we’re firmly back on the wrong side of the tracks, yet like a ‘fun’ fake tattoo that dyes your skin forever, [a]Queens Of The Stone Age[/a] make rock thrills that stick.

Hope for abandon, all ye who enter here. They won’t let you down.